National Anthem, interrupted


Krista Cleary, Business Manager

Though the Star Spangled Banner stayed through the bombs bursting in air, it didn’t stick with local California High School’s Associated Student Body (ASB).

On January 19th, Cal High held their annual winter rally, but something was different, the national anthem was not played. This was due to the fact that the school’s ASB had decided it was best to skip the anthem due to the racial ideas stated in the song.

On February 9th, after much controversy, the ASB released a statement stating that the song was decided to be removed from all rallies because of the lines in the song that had been deemed racist.

These lines are stated in the third verse of the song, which are heard only on rare occasions. The lines read: “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 home of the brave.”

“This verse translated, finds joy in the killing of African-Americans,” Cal High’s ASB President, Ariyana Kermanizadeh, said. “To think that our nation’s anthem once had the word slave and ‘land of the free’ in the same sentence leaves me speechless.”

This was the ASB’s main reason for omitting the national anthem from their gatherings. They also highlighted in their statement how far we have come from the writing of this song with all of the social reforms that America has gone through, specifying the laws that restored African Americans’ freedom.

“Our main focus this year in leadership is to reflect on our past and current practices with a major focus on the messages that we convey to the student body,” Cal’s ASB President said.

With the overwhelming amount of racist incidents that circulated through the school district last year, the Cal High community is actively taking steps towards equality and respect for all races.

The decision generated a fair amount of backlash within and around the Cal High community. Some of the main opposing points made the decision out to be invalid because of the fact that the verse they refer to is very rarely sang, and that the verse may not even be what their ASB makes it out to be.

There is evidence that the song may not be talking about slaves held by Americans. At the time that this song was written, the term slave was used for all people of all races, no matter their status of servitude, and was often used as an insult to a lowly person. Though these words can be taken either way the writer of the song, Francis Scott Key, never clarified the meaning of these words, but historians believe he was referring to actual slaves as he was an avid slave trade supporter.

Cal High’s ASB are not the first to reject the national anthem, many celebrity athletes such as Colin Kaepernick have refused to stand during the anthem for the exact same reason. Kaepernick’s public displays in 2016 shed light on the  racism of the unsung verse and raised a cry for change that has yet to come.

Many students at Cal High, though many did not even notice the absence of the national anthem, feel as though the omitting of the anthem disfranchises them of  their ability to support  and take pride in their country. Those opposed to the decision pointed out irony they saw in that ASB’s steps towards making their campus a more inclusive place was made between so few people and so quietly.

Cal High senior Amir Udler wrote a detailed description of his stance against his ASB’s decision which was circulated through social media. Udler felt that because of the rarity of the alleged racist lines, that the lines did not matter, and ASB jumped the gun.

“This country has evolved, and just like this country, the anthem has come to represent us all, no matter your race, religion, background, or any other difference you might have from your neighbor . . . this anthem belongs to us all,” Udler wrote. “[ASB] making a decision for the entire student body that the anthem can’t be played anymore is unacceptable.”

Udler urged his fellow students that shared his same views to contact their principal to push ASB to reverse their decision. Other students that share his opinion have reached out to larger local news broadcasters such as KTVU 2 and FOX 7 to spread their thoughts on the matter.

As of now, Cal High’s ASB has not lifted the ban on the national anthem, and does not plan to. The playing of the national anthem in coming years is to be decided in the coming months.

“As our culture shifts to one that is more diverse and accepting of all types of people, so must our traditions,” Kermanizadeh said. “And although we understand that this anthem represents pride and patriotism in our country to many people, we believe that there are other ways that this can be accomplished without an expense to inclusivity on our campus.”