Home Editorials Black National Anthem questioned during the 2023 Super Bowl

Black National Anthem questioned during the 2023 Super Bowl

by William T. Robinson, Jr
William T. Robinson, Jr.

The 2023 Super Bowl, LVII, between the Kansas City Chiefs and The Philadelphia Eagles was one of the best if not the best Super bowl ever played. It was the first time two Black quarterbacks were able to showcase their talent, remembering an overtly prejudiced time when Blacks were falsely deemed not intelligent enough to manifest skills, making them eligible or qualified to be NFL quarterbacks.

Many Americans saw Super Bowl 2023 as a sign that America was making some strides in diversity and equality which are definitely uniting virtues.

So can you believe there are some White conservatives, e.g.: Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert, and Florida GOP politician Lavern Spicer (just to name a few) claiming to be outraged at the inclusion of the National Black Anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ being sung on the field?

They claim that the song written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, an African American, is divisive. They assert that we all, as a country, should be united in owing all our allegiance to the national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’

Make no mistake, in an effort to show they are Americans who love this country, many Blacks partake in singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ regardless if the love they feel is not reciprocated. They want to try to feel we are one nation and everyone is accepted and treated equally. Reality dictates differently. Some Blacks may not participate in singing the national anthem but don’t feel they have the right to deprive others choosing to engage. Some conservative Republicans should take note.

Maybe not known to some, but Black America has a song they honor and revere. Many Black Americans can truly identify with the strength, struggle, pride, resilience, and religious significant highlighted in the Black national anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ It is a hymn advocating for liberty for Black Americans, praying and hoping White America can accept and understand their cry for acceptance. But too many times it falls on deaf ears to Whites who don’t care and don’t even want to hear it. There within itself, lies the problem.  How can you hope someone can understand your pain and struggle when they don’t care? We are seeing the results daily and they are not falsified or diluted. White rebuttal to the Black national anthem says it all.

I guess the biggest dilemma Black Americans share in this country is in hoping to be loved and treated equally by their oppressors. Outbursts by Republican conservatives finding fault in the singing of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ during the Super Bowl only substantiate the hope and desire desperately sought by Black Americans to be loved–a desire that is unlikely to be realized. Some demagogues voicing outrage claim that the Super Bowl is not an event meant to help waken Americans. That supports a continuation of the status quo’s bias and discrimination.

No, no, no, America! We will not let a handful of privileged, entitled, myopic, self serving Whites sell a divisive narrative as they try to stir up more racial hate to feed their base, further dividing this country with their personal treks for power. Naysayers have a right to see the event as they want, but most viewers saw the song as a defining time for this country—especially African Americans who felt proud and inclusive.

Ironically, the Black national anthem has been sung several times during Super Bowl pre-shows (2021, and 2022) but this was the first time it was aired during the Super Bowl, causing some Americans to show their true colors. Why can’t more White Americans accept things that are not necessarily Eurocentric inspired?    

This country’s racism and divisiveness is fueled by a group of people trying to dictate what is best for all of us, i.e., a Eurocentric agenda. Many Blacks seem to be fine with the status quo—no one is disputing that. If you were White, it is easy to understand why you wouldn’t believe (or even care) how other ethnicities were treated, considering the inherent rights and privileges bestowed upon you at birth. Whites who stoke the fire and fuel White supremacy, exclusion, racism, hate and division are experts at spinning and manipulating this narrative. They make the victimizers appear to be the victims. Banning books, spreading lies, and divisive rhetoric are diversions used in their game plan to keep people from being ‘awoken,’ therefore, building their base. Keeping America from being appreciative of all its children, especially Blacks who literally built this country, serves no one. Bringing negative attention to the singing of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ during the Super Bowl is only fanning the fire feeding the extremist Republican base.

Determine your own ‘take’ on the singing of the Black national anthem at the Super Bowl by actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph, but I would say Black America was very happy, proud, and unapologetic in sharing their uniting song with America and the world. Black Americans hearing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ undergo the same emotions of pride and reverence, if not greater, of so many Americans, hearing the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ One can’t help but ask if African American feelings are irrelevant when compared to their White counterparts. So much for claiming inclusion when it seems to be all about White assimilation. Hypocrisy has set up roots in this country and apparently is a welcomed inhabitant. 

I can attest that Black Americans in general were spell bound by Chris Stapleton’s rendition of the national anthem. He owned it. Sheryl Ralph Lee echoed a phenomenal heartfelt rendition of the Black national anthem. Why can’t both anthems be accepted and appreciated in this melting pot that we claim is America? Then we can all truly feel like Americans.

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