Courtesy of Pitchfork
Flash back 100 years to 1917—Woodrow Wilson was the president; the United States was still fighting the Kaiser in World War I, and women did not have the right to vote. How soon forgotten it is in today’s society, where a woman received more votes than her opponent in a presidential election, that women have not always been equal in this little democratic experiment. In fact, America’s history is full of injustices; slavery, misogyny, internment camps, segregation, and homophobia have torn up Jefferson’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” time and time again, only restored and rebuilt by resistance of those same injustices.
This weekend, while the nation was engulfed in the annual football frenzy that has come to define Super Bowl Sunday, three members of the original Broadway cast of Hamilton took the stage to sing “America the Beautiful.” The ‘Schuyler Sisters:’ Renee Elise Goldsberry, 46, Jasmine Cephas Jones, 27, and Philippa Soo, 26, delivered an emotional rendition of the patriotic tune, albeit an extremely controversial one. The three Broadway stars added two words to the classic song, and simultaneously drove the American public into a frenzy. In a daring and beautiful display of inclusion and determination, the three ladies added the words “and sisterhood” after brotherhood in the song’s most famous line.
Those who oppose the change say that the song is a national symbol and that it should not be tampered with, however this argument is inherently flawed. The United States is a nation that historically welcomes change, thus the elastic clause, and it is that same elastic clause that granted enfranchisement to women just less than 100 years ago. This spirit of change is the time-tested counterforce to injustice and should be embraced, not suppressed. Adding “and sisterhood” is not defiling “America the Beautiful,” in fact, it is sanctifying it. According to the 2010 Census, more women live in the United States than men, so continuing to solely use brotherhood ignores over 50 percent of the population, while adding sisterhood enshrines the American value of “liberty and justice for all.”
The song “America the Beautiful” truly does represent America. However, this is not because of spacious skies nor purple mountains majesty, nor even amber waves of grain. The song is so American is because it underlines the beauty of this nation, as well as its faults. The line “from sea to shining sea” is only true because of mass atrocities the US government committed against the Native American people, atrocities we still commit today. Every beautiful depiction of America’s natural beauty serves as a reminder that this nation is not doing enough to protect our environment as the government continues to repeal regulations against pollution.
The line “and crown thy good with brotherhood” is a poignant reminder of how much work still needs to be done. In the United States, women are still paid less for equal work and, according to the University of Maryland, around 65 percent of sexual assault victims are too scared to report abuse to authorities, and only 3 percent of rapists face jail time. This is a reminder that the fight is not over, the war not yet won; the Schuyler Sisters should be commended for continuing the fight, and “and sisterhood” should continue to proceed brotherhood from sea, to shining sea.