I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I have uttered these 31 words, along with over 76 million other students, every single day for the last 12 years.
When I was younger, I never really knew why I was saying these words every single morning. As I grew older, I started to understand that it was to honor those that had died fighting for this country. After learning this, I proudly stood every single morning and recited the words perfectly to show how much I appreciated these veterans who bravely gave up their lives for the United States.
Like many bilingual kids, I’ve always had an identity crisis. I’m considered to be a first-generation Asian-American who has been born and raised in the United States their whole life. My parents, unlike most of my family who has immigrated to the United States, have barely assimilated into American culture. My whole life, I was heavily influenced by my ethnicity as a result of my parents. Mandarin was my first language and the language I spoke at home, our house was covered in traditional decorations, and every Chinese holiday was celebrated more than the traditional American ones. I was proud of my ethnicity, my culture, and my family. Then something changed as I got older.
I grew up in a predominantly white town. However, despite this fact, I was never made fun of; I was never discriminated against; I never experienced institutional racism. It’s not to say that students were accepting of all races, but they never targeted Asians. I always believed that this was because my community is generally pretty accepting of all people, but now I believe it’s because I was well, quite “whitewashed”. I fit in right with my other white peers and into traditional American society. As a girl who had grown up with so much pride for her culture, what had happened to her that caused her to change these beliefs?
Everything began to change when I was in seventh grade. That year, I realized my mind was changing. Maybe it was a result of puberty or just the hell that was middle school, but I started to change my mind. As a child, I was always comfortable with both my cultures: American and Chinese. It was a pretty evenly split line, and I loved having that dual aspect of my life. I believed it made me special; different from my peers. I celebrated my American side at school with my friends, and I celebrated my Chinese side at home with my family. I religiously read books about American history and diligently learned about the founding principles of America. In fact, my favorite units in elementary school were American government and American history. I proudly sang patriotic songs like “America the Beautiful” and “You’re A Grand Old Flag” in my third grade Flag Day concert. As for my other life, I was sent to “Chinese school” on the weekends, where I would learn about Chinese culture, history, and literature. I loved it. I loved both sides of my life. Then seventh grade hit.
In middle school, it’s different. You meet new people, learn new things, and start to be more independent from your parents. I started to be influenced less and less by my parents and more and more by my teachers and friends, who, yes, were mostly white. Don’t get the wrong message my friends were the most accepting, amazing people ever who didn’t have a bone of hate in their body. It’s just that, hearing about their family life surprised me. It seemed that white families had the most perfect life. I started to resent my family after middle school. My parents didn’t have the perfect love story; in fact, I never saw an ounce of affection between them, yet they still stayed together. “For you and your sister,” they said, “we’ll stay together.” My family didn’t have movie or family nights; we didn’t say “I love you” ever; we didn’t have any affection in the house. It’s not too surprising since it’s a common theme in many Asian households. Growing up in an unaffectionate household has hurt me in ways I would have never thought of. The thought of crying, being vulnerable, telling your parents you love them is honestly my worst nightmare. The seemingly perfect-ness of white families was so appealing to me, and I believe this was the first step in my dissipating pride for my native culture.
As I grew up, I also learned more about the principles that guide America. In history classes throughout my entire life, I’ve learned that America equals freedom. America has more freedom than basically any other country in the world. When we’re kids, we learn that America is the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave”. I truly believed this. I believed that I was living in the greatest, freest, most beautiful country in the world, and this belief was reinforced by the fact that my parents came to America for a better life. Why else would they come to specifically America if it wasn’t the best country? I believed America was the land where anybody could do anything anywhere, that it was the land of opportunity for all. I also learned about China, and how they have such strict control over its people that they can’t even have YouTube and Google. How they shot down protesters at Tiananmen Square, how they were ruled by a communist regime. I didn’t know what communism was back then, but I knew that Americans hated it, so I assumed that it was bad and disliked it too. And that, my friends, was phase two in my dissipating culture.
I think the third reason for this “demise” was the want to be popular in school. It’s pretty much every girl’s dream, and I was not different. However, I realized I could never achieve that status without becoming more like those girls, which meant I had to be more, well, white. I changed my style, my personality, my entire being- until I didn’t recognize who I was anymore. And guess what happened! Newsflash! I still wasn’t popular. However, looking back on my younger self, I didn’t need to be popular. I had great friends, great teachers, and a great life. I was happy; I didn’t need anything to change that. However, I can’t deny that this “popularity contest” drastically changed the way I looked at my culture. In my quest to be more “American”, I started to disdain the other part of me. I stopped speaking Mandarin at home, complained weekly about going to Chinese school, and overall just stopped talking about my culture. At airports, I was proud to stand in the “citizen” line in America and the “foreigner” line in China. I was proud to hold that little blue book that demonstrated that I was part of a country I loved and had pride in. And slowly, that part completely overwhelmed the other half of me, and eventually demolished it.
I remember the exact day I felt the magnitude of just how much I had changed. One of my fairly new friends was shocked when she found out I could speak Mandarin. I almost laughed and said “Well, what do you mean? Of course I can!” But then I realized. I hadn’t talked about my culture for so long that the people in my life didn’t even know it was a part of me. I feel guilty for that fact; I really do. I know my parents and grandparents are disappointed in me, and I’m sure my ancestors would turn their noses up in scorn at my “un-Chinese-ness”. However, this didn’t stop me from becoming more and more “Americanized”. Through rose-colored lenses, I lived in a blissful bubble for years, where I thought I lived in the most beautiful, greatest country in the world, and that I was extremely lucky to have this opportunity.
Then this year, my rose-colored lenses were ripped off my face, quite suddenly and violently. All of a sudden, I was shoved into the real world, and the harsh, cold truth was spit in my face, leaving me defenseless, alone, and scared.
This was the result of one of the best classes I had ever taken in my life: AP U.S. History. I had an amazing teacher who was clearly passionate about her job and history, which was something I had never had before. This teacher was one of the teachers that you’ll always remember, a teacher that you would tell your kids about, a teacher that influenced you in ways you’ll never forget. One of the things this teacher did that was so special was that she told American History as kind of a story, with every event and person connecting to each other. Within the story, she wouldn’t sugarcoat anything. She told the hard, stone-cold facts about the history of America, which was so different from the teachers I’d had in previous years, who glorified people like Christopher Columbus and the founding fathers. Throughout the year, my class learned about the atrocities committed by early Americans, to both African Americans and Native Americans. We learned how Thomas Jefferson, someone most people laud for being a Founding Father, copied the writings of Enlightenment writers such as Locke and Rousseau in the Declaration and owned and severely mistreated them, even raping one and getting her pregnant. However, it wasn’t until I was studying for the AP Exam and my teacher was going through major themes in history, that I realized that most of the recurring themes were about the mistreatment of different social groups. From women to African Americans to Natives to immigrants, Americans had a long history of mistreating and denying rights to these groups of people. The thing that shocked me the most, however, was the hypocrisy. In the Declaration of Independence, it clearly states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” How can this be true if this only can be applied to white men, not all men? And the fact that women are not even acknowledged in the Declaration is just appalling.
Back to the Pledge of Allegiance- I’ve noted that I proudly stood every day at the beginning of each school day, believing that I was pledging allegiance to a free country with liberty for all. So when one of my friends admitted that she had stopped standing for the pledge last year, I was shocked, confused, and even a bit angry at how casually she said it. How can someone not stand for their own country? How can someone just blatantly disrespect the brave soldiers who have died for this country? I didn’t understand back then, but now I think I do. In the pledge, it clearly states “with liberty and justice for all.” This is only true for the privileged white men of America, with limited rights for all others. See a pattern? America’s history is supposed to be founded on the principles of freedom and equality for all, but how could we even say that when America was built on the lands of other people? How can we say that America is the land of the free when it’s not? Realizing these facts and piecing everything together has caused me to realize that America is not the place I envisioned it to me. No more could I just slip on my rose-colored lenses and pretend everything is fine.
That is why I started this blog. To combine the two things I’m most passionate about: history and achieving justice for all. This blog will be focused on how everything in American history that has happened has led to the injustices in society today. I’m tired of just talking about this subject to my friends and family; I want to do more. Make my voice heard to people across the country, even across the globe. To think that just a year ago, I was scared of being political and voicing my thoughts. I thought that I was too young to have an opinion. I’m embarrassed that I thought that way because one more voice is better than one less voice. You can never have too many voices fighting for equality of all people. With everything happening right now- the protests, the fight for black lives- it’s even more obvious that America is still pretty split.
I’m a 17-year-old Asian-American female living in the United States. I have experienced a cultural loss, but I cannot blame it on America. I have seen many other people, heard many other stories about how white people put down other cultures and make fun of them and are racist towards certain groups of people. I luckily never experienced this in my community. I think it’s quite easy for kids of immigrant parents to experience an identity crisis, as your parents are citizens of one country and you are the citizen of another. It’s also easy to become “white-washed”, as you want to fit in with your white peers and become assimilated into the nation you are a citizen in. However, I wish that America would not look down upon other races, although it’s difficult when their whole history is built on white superiority and racism. I wish that the white conservative sin this country could embrace the diversity of America because that is what makes American great. Not the land, not the government, but the people are what makes America so special. America is the most diverse country in this world, and that’s the beauty of it. Where else can you see so many people of different colors and backgrounds? The fact that many people still cannot see this fact astounds me. But I believe that my generation- Generation Z- will change the world. We are a force to be reckoned with, as seen by the March for Our Lives protests, the #MeToo movement, and now the Black Lives Matter protests. Most of Gen-Z are still teenagers, yet we’re taking more action than the actual adults that run this country. We are the most liberal, most accepting, and most educated generation America has ever seen. I will do anything in my power to make sure that my children and grandchildren will live in a more accepting, equal America.
I don’t have animosity towards America, I really don’t. After all, we have come a long way from what society was like in the 1700s. But we still have a long, long way to go. With a history full of racism and inequality, it’s no wonder why America cannot change as fast as people would like it to. Yes, 200+ years is a long time, but change is ever more gradual and slow. Don’t get me wrong, I would do anything to accelerate equality for all, but changing the minds of millions is not an easy task. But one can only hope that one day, America will be the country that is known for giving everyone, not just whites, liberty and justice for all. I have no animosity towards America. I am still loyal to this country and would not give up my citizenship for the world. But I’ve come to realize that it’s not America I stand for, it’s the principles and rights that America is supposed to stand for.
Thank you for reading.