A leadership class at San Ramon’s California High made the decision to remove the National Anthem from the school’s pep rallies, citing racist lyrics in the son’s unsung verses, ABC7 reported.
Student Body President Ariyana Kermanizadeh cited the third verse in the national anthem as being “outdated and racially insensitive.”
That verse of the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” reads: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave.”
Kermanizadeh said he and the student body made the decision to remove the national anthem from the pep rally on Jan. 19.
“After learning about the third verse, the other [student body] officers and I thought that this was completely unacceptable and must be removed from the rally,” Kermanizadeh wrote. “We had nothing but good intentions by removing the song so that we could be fully inclusive to our student body.
The third verse of the national anthem has long been debated regarding the phrase “the hireling and slave,” and what the song’s composer, Francis Scott Key, was referring to.
“This verse translated finds joy in the killing of African-Americans,” Kermanizadeh wrote. “To think that our nation’s anthem once had the word slave and ‘land of the free’ in the same sentence leaves me speechless.”
“Moving forward, we must take action and be inclusive to all. This song was written in 1814. That was written 204 years ago. Imagine all the traditions and laws that have changed,” she continued.
“As our culture shifts to one that is more diverse and accepting of all types of people, so must our traditions,” she said. “And although we understand that this anthem represents pride and patriotism in our country to many people, we believe that there are other ways that this can be accomplished without an expense to inclusivity on our campus.”
Leadership adviser Erin McFerrin agreed with the decision to remove the national anthem from pep rallies.
“In the leadership class, [we strive on] being really inclusive and mindful of all the decisions we make,” McFerrin said. “We didn’t really know why we were doing [the anthem during] the rally, so we just thought it was something maybe we could take out.”
Senior Dennis Fiorentinos disagreed with the decision to remove the anthem.
“I respect their decision to make the change and I understand why they did it, but I feel that the anthem doesn’t stand for that,” Fiorentinos said. “I feel that California High School honoring and respecting those who have died protecting our freedom is more important.”
Assistant principal Kathleen Martins said she wasn’t aware of the decision before the pep rally.