When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and went on to explain that, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he stepped into a long and proud tradition. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was written by the slave owner Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. That war began as an attempt by the US to grab Canada from the British Empire, and one tactic behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves, and hence the third verse of FSK’s atrocious anthem: “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.” There were human beings fighting for their freedom in 1812, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” celebrates America’s “triumph” over them—glorifying the owners and murderers of enslaved workers as freedom fighters. Land of the free, indeed.