Vandals defaced a statue of Francis Scott Key in Baltimore Tuesday night, scrawling “racist anthem” on the memorial’s base and splashing it with red and black paint, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Authorities also say two stanzas of the third verse of Key’s “Star Spangled Banner,” the national anthem, were scrawled on the ground, in an apparent effort to explain why poor Francis was the latest target in a string of statue defacing incidents:
No refuge could save, Hireling or slave,
From terror of flight, Or gloom of grave.
Baltimore police say they’re investigating, but they have no suspects.
Key’s memorial is one of only a handful of statues left standing in Baltimore; last week, the city government ordered all statues honoring Confederate generals or Maryland’s Confederate legacy removed. But apparently, taking those down wasn’t enough for Baltimore’s rampaging social justice warriors, who have moved the goalposts on what they consider to be “offensive” monuments.
Of course, its not like Key wasn’t on their radar. Plenty of controversy has surrounded the national anthem since former 49ers second string quarterback, the now-unemployed Colin Kaepernick, began kneeling during the anthem during NFL games, in protest of both the nation’s and the anthem’s “racist history.”
But, of course, Key isn’t a figure from the Civil War, and he wrote the now-famous song while staring at a flag that had survived a vicious British attack on a Baltimore fortress during the War of 1812.
Some historians do point to the above stanzas as evidence that Key was, himself a “racist,” but most scholars contend it’s not clear whom Key is referring to when he says “hireling or slave.” It could be a reference to American slaves, but more likely, it’s a reference to British ones; the British conscripted black slaves to fight with its Army during the War of 1812 with the promise of freedom if they helped the British win. One of two slave units was involved in the very battle Key witnessed.
Of course, Key was also a slaveholder, not uncommon of landowners at the time.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Key’s statues have to come down. It just means that, as competent, functioning adults, we should be capable of understanding that our founding heroes weren’t all good all the time, particularly by modern standards. We can’t erase our history, but we can understand it in context.