Why white people hate the Black national anthem, explained

Lift Every Voice and Sing, Black National Anthem, theGrio.com
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks to supporters at a campaign rally at the Dream City Church on November 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks to supporters at a campaign rally at the Dream City Church on November 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Long before Frankie Beverly and Maze doublechecked their desire to exit a loving relationship, nearly a century before the Cash Money Records’ authoritarian regime kicked off the 21st century, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People devised a 100-year plan to rankle the fragile sensibilities of Caucasian crybabies across the country:

They were going to sing a song.

Following in the footsteps of other people who enjoy cleansing their palate with the n-word, failed white person Kari Lake‘s tear ducts became the latest to be pried opened by the combination of words and musical notes known as the Black national anthem. After refusing to stand during the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during the pregame ceremony for the NFL’s season opener last week, Lake told Fox News “America has only ONE National Anthem and that Anthem is color blind.”

I know, it doesn’t make sense. Racism is stupid.

To help others understand this pearl-clutching caucasity, theGrio put together this quick explainer for why this particular song infuriates white people more than Colin Kaepernick kneeling while reading excerpts from “The 1619 Project” to Barack Obama’s tan suit.  

What is the Black national anthem?

Originally written in 1900 as a poem about surviving the white supremacist terrorism of Reconstruction, James Weldon Johnson set the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to his brother’s music for a children’s choir celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The song soon became a staple for Black choirs and African-American schoolchildren around the country, prompting the NAACP to dub the song the “Negro National Anthem” at its 1917 convention.

Why did Black people need their own separate national anthem?

They didn’t.

It just so happens that Weldon’s “hymn of praise or gladness” was a “rousing popular song that is identified with a particular … movement, or point of view,” which, according to the dictionary, makes it an “anthem.” And since the NAACP is mostly concerned with the advancement of African-Americans in this nation, some people thought it wouldn’t be controversial to call an anthem that was sung by Black people across the nation a “Black national anthem.”  See how words work?

It is also important to note that Kari Lake isn’t an outlier on this issue. In fact, she is expressing her butthurtedness because she has something in common with a lot of white people. Vanessa Williams also faced backlash when she performed the song at an event at the U.S. Capitol a few months after white people demonstrated national unity on Jan 6, 2021. Smirking white boy Bill Maher said: “Purposefully fragmenting things by race reinforces a terrible message that we are two nations hopelessly drifting apart.” Right-wing Barbie Megyn Kelly said: “I don’t think that the average American — Black or white — wants to hear the Black national anthem before they hear the national anthem … and it’s no offense against people of color, we’re one country.” Kelly is perfectly fine with white people having a separate Jesus but believes “[w]e don’t need separate anthems,” when she heard about the NFL’s decision to include the song in pregame ceremonies.

But these people are dumb. 

There’s no need to insult anyone to make a point. Why would you call them dumb?

In this case, “dumb” is not meant as a pejorative. I am simply describing their level of knowing things. Dumb people feel a certain way about things because they don’t know factual information. And like a person who gets hungry when they look into the night sky because they think the moon is made of cheese, Lake, Maher and Kelly are angry about Black people having a separate national anthem because white people generally don’t know anything about Black history. If they did, they’d realize how stupid they sounded because they didn’t know one significant fact:

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was the Black national anthem two decades before the  “Star Spangled Banner” became America’s official national anthem.

But then again, Megyn Kelly believes that Santa Claus being a member of the Caucasian race is a “verifiable fact.”

Even if “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first, don’t you think it’s divisive to have two national anthems?


This is the part that no one can ever explain. Why does one song invalidate the other? We sing the “baseball national anthem” during the seventh-inning stretch. When a team from Canada plays in the United States, no one is bothered by “O Canada.” Why can’t Black people love “Lift Every Voice” as much as people of colonizer descent like their slavery serenade? 

Moreover, why are white people so obsessed with this zero-sum mentality? Because that’s what the Black national anthem is about. It’s about the massacres sparked by the belief that Black people’s freedom was a threat to white people’s existence. It’s why “white power” was the response to Black power, why “all lives matter” was a response to Black Lives Matter and why a barely literate white supremacist was the response to the first Black president.

If it’s not divisive, why does this song make white people so angry?

Because they subconsciously hate Black people.

Plus, if Kari Lake truly wanted to unite her beloved country, she’d stop singing about a stolen election. In an effort to bring the country together, Megyn Kelly started feuds with Naomi Osaka, Tiffany Cross and Nikole Hannah-Jones. Maher’s joke about a field slave versus a “house nigger” is the kind of hilarity that unites us all.

Apparently, the racial wealth gap, underfunded schools, a biased criminal justice system, two-tiered education, police brutality, voter suppression, banking discrimination, access to clean water, medical racism, white supremacist terrorism, sentencing laws, employment practices, real estate devaluation and white women defecating on Black women every chance they get are not what divides America. All this time, it was a song. 

Who knew?

But what about the Black people like Larry Elder, who agrees with Kari Lake? He issued a statement saying “I am as opposed to playing both anthems as I am to the term ‘African-America’ and to Black History Month.” Jason Whitlock said two national anthems are “unhealthy.” 

Oh, you mean Larry Elder, the right-wing political commentator who wants to ban critical race theory and supports reparations … for slave owners? The Larry Elder who doesn’t believe police are more likely to use force against Black people and refuses to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism? This Larry Elder?

Asking Jason Whitlock about what’s “unhealthy” is like getting birth control advice from Nick Cannon. 

Don’t you find it curious that the Black people who gained political capital, celebrity and power by siding with white supremacy are always willing to tell white people why Black people are wrong? Why would anyone who actually cared about Black people or American unity disregard the research, experiences and activism of the people who have been fighting for liberation, equality and justice, and instead, listen to an overtly anti-Black radio host and a shuckin’-and-jivin’ sports clown? Black people have been singing this song for more than a century but we’re supposed to listen to someone who wouldn’t spit on a Black person if they were on fire?


The song is a celebration of Blackness — not football or America. We were singing the song before the sports leagues thought it was a good idea to open games with a tune about preserving slavery. We were singing the song amongst ourselves before the NFL even existed. No one complained about its exclusion for the first 100 years of NFL football, and we didn’t ask the NFL to include it, so why are we even in it? But this debate has nothing to do with Black people, patriotism or even unity.

It’s is about white people.

Playing ” “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as a prelude to a sports ball contest is something that white people decided to do. While the Black national anthem is objectively better than the theme song for slaveowners, only white people believe that celebrating Black America is antithetical to loving America as a whole. When Lake says “America has only ONE National Anthem and that Anthem is color blind,” it’s because she can’t fathom the possibility of not discriminating against people who don’t share her ethnicity, culture or skin color. But contrary to what white people think, the Black national anthem will not inspire a generation of critical race theorists to start a race war.  To be fair, it’s not that white people don’t like the Black national anthem … 

They hate the “us” part.

If someone thinks it is impossible to “see color” and not be prejudiced by it, they’d hate probably hearing people “sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.” Only those who equate America with whiteness would object to a Black national anthem when we “sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.” But since we know America has never wanted to see Black people facing “the rising sun of a new day begun,” here’s what I suggest we do:

Let us march on till victory is won.

I wish I could explain why white people refuse to join us.

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in September.

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