Saturday, January 29, 2011

National Anthem and Indiana Woman

I want to post about something that may not have anything to do with information literacy, but we could stretch the argument.  I came across this news story a few minutes ago.  Here’s another link at ABC. 

Now, I’m not one to get emotional or misty eyed over patriotic offerings.  I usually think people go a bit far with that kind of stuff.  However, this young Indiana woman’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is beautiful.  I don’t hear any background music, and in my mind that makes singing a song that much harder.  Of course, I’m not a singer (unless I’m very drunk).  Her voice is strong, the song has feeling, and I felt myself on the verge of tears.  I wish I had this young woman’s talent.  And I wish I had her self-esteem when I was in high school. 

The problem is that now there are some people tearing her down because they say she sang the National Anthem in an “untraditional” style.  Considering that everyone who sings a song gives it a different flavor than the original singing (and that’s with any song), how can people complain about this version?  She just sang the song, without any musical accompaniment at all.

The young woman is black, and the complaints come from a small town in Indiana that is mostly white.  So, it’s making it hard for me to believe this isn’t racially motivated, which in this day and age, is crazy, not to mention unpatriotic given that we live in a free democracy.  I understand that people have a lot of built in bias and primitive tribal urges to shun what is different and also are raised in prejudiced environments, but can’t we get over the primitive parts of our brains and bad upbringings and react to the core of issues?   I just get the feeling that if this woman had been a white singer, this wouldn’t be an issue.  And that pisses me off.

I don’t know.  Maybe, I’m simplifying a much more complicated issue.  Maybe, I’m biased by the way the news story is written.  Maybe, I’m a bit touchy about this subject because this young woman doesn’t deserve to be told she can’t sing in her voice and exercise her creative energy.  She has a wonderful voice, and it shouldn’t be diminished.   

I grew up in a very racist, homophobic, misogynist area.  If you aren’t white, Christian (preferably of the Baptist flavor), male, and American born, they don’t want you there.  I watched newcomers to the community get threatened, picked on, and some of them run out.  We had KKK whispers throughout the community.  And sometimes, the prejudice wasn’t overt.  It just pressed in on people until they wanted to snap.  It’s one of the reasons living in this part of the United States can be so depressing and debilitating.

I think if people were exposed to the reasons people develop prejudices in the first place, more people might be able to break free of the problem.  When you understand evolution, biology, history, psychology, etc, it makes it difficult to hold onto negative assumptions and views of your fellow human beings. 

Unless they’re just asses-like the people who complained about this young woman’s version of the anthem.    

Shai, keep singing.

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