Editorials | The “Black National Anthem”

S.A. Shepler (c) Community Word 2018
The Declaration of Independence sets forth the principles of our democracy: All people in this country are equal with inalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We can believe in the promises of the Declaration of Independence but acknowledge history proves we’re in default on those promises.
We have watched unarmed Black men shot and killed by police; we have watched as the U.N. criticizes the United States for violating children’s rights and international law by separating children from their parents entering at the U.S. border; we’ve seen the pictures of desecrated Jewish cemeteries and Islamic centers in this country; we’ve watched anti-LGBTQ legislation pushed; and we’ve allowed Russian meddling to play havoc with our elections –– the sacred tool of our democracy.

Our nation’s founding principles are set forth in the Declaration of Independence, not in the Star Spangled Banner. The song was written by a slave owner and opponent of abolition. It has been described as a racist, pro-slavery, anti-black song.

Here is a better choice for National Anthem, one that is frequently referred to as the Black National Anthem. We need a National Anthem that represents us all.

Lift Every Voice and Sing
By James Weldon Johnson
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Agree or disagree with this editorial, or with any contested issue such as removing the name of Woodrow Wilson from a Peoria public school, it’s helpful to ponder the philosophy of Edmund Burke.

Manners are more important than laws, Burke wrote. Manners are based on respect, and they promote social stability. Manners derive power from moral values. Manners provide a framework for resolving conflict and maintaining civil community. They are adaptable to evolving situations, and they draw us in to dialogue and social interactions.
Whether the contested issue is changing the name of a public school that honors a racist, singing a song referred to as a National Anthem or negotiating trade tariffs, Edmund Burke has a philosophy for moving forward and promoting social stability.

Dr. Maude Sanders School

The name Woodrow Wilson is being removed from a public school in Peoria after months of discussion. Wilson was a past president, but we now know he was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, a segregationist and a racist. Princeton University and countless other institutions have removed his name from buildings as more history comes to light.
One Peoria board member voted against the change because he said 80 to 90 percent of the comments he received regarding the name change were from people who wanted to retain Wilson’s name. However, some of those supporters of Wilson’s name likely did not understand the man’s true history. Most of us did not.

Additionally, the school board is representational democracy, not a pure democracy. Our representative on the school board is not obliged to regurgitate opinions of every constituent who may or may not know all the facts. Representational democracy is a filter: feedback from constituents passed through the filter of new information and analysis.

Another board member voted for the change but warned about where this could lead. This could end up forcing us to re-evaluate the names of Charles Lindbergh and Thomas Jefferson, he said.

Actually, that would be a good outcome.

We should not blindly adhere to a version of history we are beginning to understand is flawed. As we learn more, we should evaluate past decisions.

What we thought was a good idea 50 years ago, may not be a good idea today. This is not “rewriting history” as the argument goes. This is learning unfiltered history.

Lindbergh was anti-Semitic. When the school was named in his honor, most people did not know or understand his hatred of Jewish people. Should new, fact-based understanding influence our thinking? Absolutely.

It once seemed unfathomable that the United States turned away a ship of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi hatred and concentration camps. They were turned away from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and sent back to death camps.

Many people vowed that would never happen again. But today, we watch ships overflowing with refugees crossing the Mediterranean and we watch country after country reject them. We watch people turned away or deported at the U.S. Mexican border.

If we don’t learn from history, it repeats itself.

Dr. Saunders was the first Black female doctor in Peoria. She was denied admitting rights at all Peoria hospitals because she was Black. She was the family physician for countless Peoria families over the decades, including the family of board member Ernestine Jackson.

Should children in Peoria Public Schools understand that not so long ago, medical doctors were discriminated against? Yes. That’s an important lesson to learn, and it should influence our thinking moving forward and motivate us to work for a just society.

Wrong interpretation of survey on abortion

There are a number of flawed interpretations of the latest Gallup poll results about public support for abortion. Polling results depend on how questions are phrased.

Here are a few inconsistencies that result in flawed conclusions:

Results show only 13 percent support abortion in the third trimester. That number is 75 percent supporting abortion in the third trimester to protect the woman’s life. Third trimester abortions are extremely rare, and most are due to the woman’s health or serious fetal abnormalities.

The survey numbers in support increase when the reason is rape, incest or the health of the mother. Fact is, rape and incest are often hard to prove and even more difficult to document in bureaucratic government regulatory agencies. All during that process, the clock is ticking for the rape or incest victim, and her pregnancy is progressing from one trimester to the next.

The U.S. abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade due largely to improved access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act and effective, long-term reversible contraception in the form of IUDs.
Here’s a colossal inconsistency: access to contraception reduces abortions, yet the Trump administration is pursuing a relentless effort to withdraw and restrict women’s access to contraception.

Trump’s “Gag Rule” for Title X funds is a surgically-targeted effort to make sure low-income women do not have access to information about abortion; fact is no federal funds are used for abortion. Under the “Gag Rule,” doctors can’t even answer questions truthfully.

The gag rule violates doctor-patient confidentiality and replaces it with Big Brother. It undermines medical ethics and is opposed by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Physicians.
Here is the flawed headline from National Public Radio about the Gallup poll: Americans’ Support for Abortion Wanes as Pregnancy Progresses.

That is misleading if not outright wrong. Third term abortions are extremely rare and almost always done to support the mother’s life or due to severe fetal abnormality. When responders are asked if they support third term abortions to protect the woman’s life, 75 percent said yes. When they were asked if they support third term abortions in the case of rape or incest, 52 percent said yes.

Correct headline: Majority of Americans Support Abortion in All Stages of Pregnancy.

Clare Howard

Clare Howard is the editor of the Community Word. She can be reached at communityword@yahoo.com

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