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An article on The Root last year accused the National Anthem of being racist based on it’s mention of slavery in the third stanza.

“…And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave…”

Key was saying that the blood of all the former slaves and “hirelings” on the battlefield will wash away the pollution of the British invaders. With Key still bitter that some black soldiers got the best of him a few weeks earlier, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is as much a patriotic song as it is a diss track to black people who had the audacity to fight for their freedom.

The article is not entirely correct. Sadly people didn’t give much account to slaves in those times, at least in the South. What Scott Key was writing about was the common British practice of using their own chattel slaves, and foreigners apprehended & pressed into service, as well as mercenaries, on their sailing ships. He was contrasting the ineffectiveness of hired and captive military forces compared to a largely free and volunteer force.

Britain didn’t free it’s slaves until a couple decades after the War. They freed their slaves a few decades sooner than most of the European powers in part because frankly as a shipping nation they were still able to trade in goods produced by slaves owned by other European nations, even though slavery was bad economically for both the slave and the master.

The reason the West was the first to end slavery in 5,000 years of recorded history was directly due to the Judeo Christian world view of individuals as having rights to life, liberty and property (which British common law scholars and the Founders directly attributed to Genesis 1:28, which requires all three).

Please watch the film Amazing Grace sometime if you haven’t already.

I’ve read the book The Internal Enemy by Alan Taylor, an example of the Howard Zinn type of thinking upon which the Root author was basing many of his conclusions. The truth is that three-quarters of the Founders opposed slavery and put into the Declaration and Constitution in seed form the principles of abolition, as the great Frederick Douglass came to realize later in life.

The much criticized “three-fifths” compromise fully recognized the personhood of the slaves, and the reason it lessened their representation by their oppressors in Congress was specifically to weaken their oppressors. The slave states wanted to consider slaves property in terms of being, but persons in terms of representation. The free state legislators countered that if that was the case they would could chairs, tables and horses, etc. The three-fifths compromise fully acknowledged the slaves humanity, while weakening their oppressor’s power legislatively.

Later our nation fought a great and bloody civil war to end slavery, the only nation to do so. And Republicans again fought and won in the Civil Rights struggles of the 50’s and 60’s before LBJ, tragically, interpreted Titles II and VII of the CRA 1964 to mean racist quotas and differential treatment based on skin color. The Democrats are still the side of racism, still the side of division based on skin color.

No, this is a great nation.  We can be proud to sing our National Anthem.

The music is incredibly hoakey but the words to the poem by Richard Riddle are 100% spot on:

There is no racism in the Star Spangled Banner

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