The Black National Anthem: Separatist and Divisive?

After these past couple of weeks of media fallout from the Shirley Sherrod debacle, the notion of “reverse racism” has taken hold as a talking point in the national “dialogue” around race. While this incident became a national story and a point of embarrassment for the Obama Administration and the NAACP, there is yet another front on which the forces of post-racialism see fit to attack.  The culprit?  Everyone who has ever sung “Lift Every Voice”

That wasn’t a joke. Professor Timothy Askew of Clark Atlanta University says that the Black National Anthem is “racially separatist and divisive.” Mr. Askew goes even further, and says that the song is “for everybody” and does not specifically refer to African-Americans. I tend to think that if James Weldon Johnson were alive today, he would disagree.

A couple of thoughts occurred regarding the various criticisms of Black culture in this alleged post-racial era that we are in. It appears to me that it is more about taking away things from African-Americans then it is about “moving past” race. This move towards cultural dispossession is another strong element underlying the motivations of those who want to dictate the behavior of Black America. It’s one thing to say that all Americans should come together for a greater cause. But it is altogether a different request to ask an entire group of people to set aside elements of their culture to prevent feelings of “confusion and tension” in the larger society.  Why does “unity” always seem to come at the expense of Black people and place the relinquishment of any vestiges of cultural distinction as the primary goal?Until we get to the heart of that issue, it appears that on all fronts the purpose of post-racial thought is to de-emphasize Blackness and leave us confused about which direction to go.

Marc W. Polite


  1. Prof. Askew theorem has added yet another dissenting and contrary Black voice to the rhetoric referred to as of late as “the national dialogue on race.”

    The need for these learned Negroes to practice cultural muckraking is sad.The sacking of African American old-guard traditions is tragic. And finally, Prof. Askew and the entire corp of Black apolegetics are pathetic.

  2. I agree. You would think that after decades of studying, that Prof. Askew would come to the conclusion that “Lift Every Voice” is a song solidly in the Black American tradition, instead of “deciding” that its for everyone.

    It appears that some Black academics are willing to give away our culture to everybody. Abandoning your own culture just because the larger society says so is weak.

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