Sitting for What You Believe In

“Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a moment of silence” comes across the loudspeaker as it does every day. I stand with my classmates, and together we begin to recite the same pledge we have said since kindergarten. This time, for the first time, I pay attention to the words I am saying . My classmates finish “with liberty and justice for all (2)”, but those words do not leave my mouth. Instead, my hand falls off of its place over my heart, and drops to my side as I blankly stare at the flag. I know that for my race, being black in America, that last line is more often than not, inaccurate.

From then on, I have not been able to say the pledge, and every day I stand in silence listening to the voices of my white classmates echo through the room. Until the pledge is able to be upheld for all people in America, no one should be required to recite an untrue statement every day, or else it is simply brainwashing by denying the truth of the American government.

Standing for the national anthem has recently become a major controversy in the United States ever since Colin Kaepernick, a famous black NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the anthem (4). Kaepernick did not do this as an intended sign of disrespect for the country, he kneeled because he did not believe in standing for a country with police brutality against his race on the rise and to promote the Black Lives Matter Movement. Colin Kaepernick also addressed that he would not stand until something was done to fix the injustices black Americans face. Many people were outraged by Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem and believed it was disrespectful to the men and women who serve the United States and defend our rights(1). If we take a look at the statistics, and acknowledge that 39 unarmed black Americans were killed by Police Officers in 2016 alone, it is hard to say that these men and women are always defending the rights of every American. Kaepernick supported the Black Lives Matter movement which is often confused for being against police. The Black Lives Matter movement is rather against police brutality, not simply the police. What Colin Kaepernick did was kneel for what he believed in since standing would be supporting something he believed to be false, and he should not be ridiculed for that.

After the Kaepernick situation, many athletes took their platform to promote the protest against police brutality. With such a commotion the kneeling caused, the United States Women’s Soccer Team passed a rule saying that all team members must stand for the national anthem as a sign of respect for the country they play for. This again caused a commotion because it was seen to be taking away the right of speech. Being forced to stand for something ideals that the government does not protect is absurd and it seems to mirror the North Korean government. This comparison may seem like a major stretch because no one wants to think of Americans being treated like North Koreans. If the situations are looked at side by side however, there are more similarities than one may realize. North Korean, students are required to recite a prayer to their leader Kim Jong-Un, little do they know that the country is in complete shambles and their human rights are being violated (3). The brainwashing that goes on there by saying a pledge to a leader who is not looking out for their human liberties, is in an essence, similar to Americans saying a pledge to a country that denies human liberties of its citizens.

The pledge of allegiance’s words hold more American promises than the national anthem. Not only are we required to recite the pledge of allegiance in school every day, but we are never taught what it means. In my half year of civics, I was taught about the constitution, its amendments, the three branches of government, and immigration affairs. Out of all of these topics, never once was there a time when I learned the meaning of the pledge that we are required to recite every morning. It was not until the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement that I really started paying attention to the words I was saying.

I have respect for America, and I love the country I have grown up in. I recognize that living in the United States, I am blessed to have human rights that others in various countries are denied. There however, are certain rights such as the right to a fair trial, and being protected by law enforcement that a lot of black people in America are denied. By not reciting and standing for the pledge of allegiance, similarly to people kneeling for the national anthem, I am in no way doing anything to harm others or break the law. Instead, I am refusing to essentially lie by saying that America upholds its democratic ideals for all of the people that live within its borders.

Schools should not require students to stand for the pledge of allegiance if they do not believe in what it says. As long as the student respects others who continue to stand for the pledge, and is not a disruption to the moment of silence, no harm is being done. With schools permitting this, students are also allowed to maintain their right of speech, and their right to speak out against the government while still maintaining order and respect in the classroom.

I am a firm believer in standing up for what I believe in, and in this case, it requires me to sit for what I believe in. America has a long way to go before there is “liberty and justice for all”. That being said, no one should ever be forced to stand and recite a pledge that they do not believe is upheld.

Citations

  1. Press, Jesse J. Holland Associated. “White Americans Largely Disapprove of National Anthem Protests, Poll Finds.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 12 Oct. 2016, www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/white-americans-disapprove-national-anthem-protests-poll-finds/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2017.
  2. “The Origin And Meaning Of The Pledge Of Allegiance — Freedom From Religion Foundation”. Ffrf.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
  3. “Children Weep As They Pledge Allegiance To Kim Jong Un And North Korea”. Telegraph.co.uk. N.p., 2017. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
  4. “Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Sat During National Anthem”. NFL.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.