"Just bending a knee forced us to go back and look at a lot of things," the California NAACP's Alice Huffman said in a press conference. "And we went back and looked at the so-called Star Spangled Banner."
The song, whose lyrics come from a poem called "Defence of M'Henry" by Francis Scott Key, became the national anthem of the United States in 1931 under President Woodrow Wilson -- a man who's now often thought of as racist. The lyrics, including several lesser-known verses, describe a battle in which freed American slaves fought alongside British troops.
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"That song was really created out of racism," Huffman said.
Also present at the press conference was the Rev. Amos Brown, a civil rights activist who studied under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and now serves as pastor at San Francisco's Third Baptist Church.
"That song speaks of killing, speaks of bombs, speaks of armaments," Brown said. "Tearing other people up. Tearing other nations up. We ought to be working to build up the nations of the world."
The NAACP is calling on state and Federal lawmakers to remove The Star Spangled Banner as the U.S. national anthem. It's a request some think is too extreme -- including 96-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran Lt. Col. John Stevens, a retired U.S. Marine.
"I look at it as a unifier," Stevens said. "It's something that all of us know, and when we were young, we were taught to stand up and be respectful when it's played."
Stevens pointed to a large black and white photograph that hangs on the wall of his office. It depicts men in his unit scaling a wall during the Korean war.
WWII and Korea veteran Lt. Col. John Stevens (USMC, Ret.) says having The Star Spangled Banner as our national #anthem is a powerful reminder that freedom must sometimes be fought for. pic.twitter.com/UBYMOv6hDY— Jonathan Bloom (@BloomTV) November 9, 2017
"See the man at the top?" he asked. "Two minutes later, that man gave his life to save the people around him."
Stevens said to him, The Star Spangled Banner's battle-inspired lyrics are a reminder that freedom must sometimes be fought for.
Of its detractors, he said: "Are they going to be willing to fight for our country?"
The Rev. Brown says he thinks Americans need a different message. Among a handful of songs he'd suggest to replace the current national anthem: "America the Beautiful. See, all we're doing now is ugly in this land," he said. "We need to be beautiful."