Hamel: Chicago shootings represent a new US anthem

Opinion Editor Peyton Hamel declares the U.S. anthem lies on the bare back of Black and Brown Americans. 

Peyton Hamel

Editor’s Note: Before I begin, I would like to attribute the contents of this column to a fellow columnist, Walter Suza, and his series of columns concerning social issues and race, especially his recent column “Bullet through the heart.” There was also a mathematical error made. The Daily regrets this error. 

As we all know from our fourth grade history classes, The Fourth of July — also known as Independence Day — symbolizes our national day of freedom and solidarity from British rule in 1776. Our “Star-Spangled Banner” anthem tells it well:

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight…

Let’s skip ahead to the end:

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

Freedom back then was a lot different than what freedom looks like now.

Who is the free?

Our most patriotic and freedom-oriented holiday now tells a white lie about our country: 23.7 percent of our country’s people aren’t free when it concerns race. 

Over Fourth of July weekend, Chicago was a land of massacre. Eighty-seven Chicagoans were injured and 17 were killed. And this wasn’t just one shooting, it was several. 

The following Tuesday, 11 more were shot and two were killed

The many deaths are argued to be related to gangs, but it doesn’t change the fact that the victims were primarily Black Americans. 

“At least 336 people have been murdered in Chicago through July 2, according to the Chicago Police Department; because murders typically increase in the summer, the city is on track to match the 778 deaths in 2016, its deadliest year since the mid-1990s. (New York City, with almost three times the population, had 176 murders as of June 28.),” according to ABC 7

And it continues. 

Our American anthem is not the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The American anthem reeks of killing Black and Brown Americans. The American anthem reeks of oppression. The American anthem has nothing to do with freedom. Otherwise, people would be free. Black and Brown Americans would be free. 

What does freedom look like to you? I hope it isn’t the white picket fence with a family of four in a white suburban neighborhood. I hope it isn’t the right to bear arms when Black people can’t bear an arm without getting shot. I hope it isn’t taking a jog in beautiful weather without having to worry about that same right taking your life. 

This is segregated freedom. 

Safety can be an abstract concept in communities of color, or completely nonexistent. I was talking to a Black friend of mine and they said something to me I hadn’t thought about. She said, “If we call the cops, we get beat. If we don’t, we’re to blame.”

I hope I live to the day where Black and Brown Americans aren’t afraid to walk the streets that are tattered with public lynchings and color shaming.

We can say enough is enough all we want, but, for white people, we have nothing but time to contribute to remedying centuries of discrimination and color-based abuses. We may not have been directly involved in the beginning, but we can be directly involved in the end. 

If you are exhausted fighting for rights for Black and Brown Americans, make sure you understand whose shoes you’re standing in. Black and Brown Americans have been running in the same muddy shoes for centuries, passed down generation to generation. 

Our work is far from done, but we need more shoes and people to start running in the direction America needs, in the direction Black and Brown Americans need. 

Change the anthem. Change the script. Stop running.