PBS has found itself facing criticism after the company decided to have singer Vanessa Williams on the July 4 program performing the “black national anthem.” Critics have slammed the station’s move as divisive and un-American.
Williams’ performance during the annual Capitol Fourth program on Sunday evening had been intended to celebrate Juneteenth being recognized as a federal holiday.
“It’s in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we are reflective of the times,” Williams, the first black woman to win the Miss America Pageant, told the Associated Press. “We are reflective of the times and I’m happy to be part of a tremendous show that the producers are aware and willing to make the changes that have happened within the past year and a half.”
Williams’ rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” will never replace the national anthem, performed on the show by Grammy-award winner Renée Fleming. However, the station’s decision bitterly divided people on social media.
Lavern Spicer, a Republican candidate in Florida’s 24th district, tweeted: “Vanessa honey, a BLACK national anthem is something a Black African Country would have, not a country like America that exists for everyone.”
Author Tim Young echoed the representative’s statement, writing: “Nothing will unite us more as a nation than separate but equal national anthems…”
“This isn’t unity… it’s division,” Young wrote in a different tweet.
Jenna Ellis, former Weld County deputy district attorney and Trump lawyer, quoted the Pledge of Allegiance to voice her frustration: “We are ONE Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.”
Former CIA officer Brian Dean Wright tweeted: “We’re witnessing the unraveling of E pluribus unum in real time,” referring to the country’s traditional motto, Latin for “Out of many, one.”
“The consequences will be dire,” he added.
Others on social media also slammed the decision to perform two anthems.
“I didn’t get the memo, we have a new anthem? And what was wrong with our original one?” one person wrote.
“What? I thought we were ALL Americans?! Now divided by color? What happened to one nation, under God, indivisible? Talk about dividing us…” another commented.
The song, written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900, was originally called “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and was popular among Civil Rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s.
Sources: New York Post