“Shouldn’t we be standing up?” I whispered to my friend Sara. I was somewhat uncertain, but went with my first instinct, which was to stand (as a few scattered folks had already done), and slowly but surely, everybody else did so as well.
Last night,* I attended the Grand Rapids Symphony’s annual “Symphony with Soul” event. The first song that the orchestra played was the “Black National Anthem”, Lift Every Voice and Sing. Now, I’m pretty sure that you’re supposed to stand during the national anthem. It’s a respect thing, if I remember my elementary school training correctly. And okay, this isn’t the “official” national anthem (though I, for one, wish it was–I seriously LOVE this song!!!), but it bothered me, I guess because part of me wondered if half of the white folks in the audience even knew what the song was . . . and those who don’t, in my opinion, are missing out, but I suppose that’s besides the point.
The fact is, though, that this seems to me like just another white privilege. We don’t HAVE to know anything about this “other” National Anthem. Our lack of familiarity with it is to be expected. But in our ignorance, we display a basic disrespect for this song, and for the history and meaning behind it.
Which is why I remained standing, even when I didn’t know that others would stand up also. Because sometimes, standing up is simply the right thing to do.
*(I know, I know. I’m posting this two weeks after the fact and am back-dating it. Just humor me, okay?!)