I made a vow to myself some years ago never to say the Pledge of Allegiance again, until the words “with liberty and justice for all” are true in this country. The United States has founding documents, patriotic songs, and a Pledge that all have beautifully written words with sentiments that promise freedom, equality, justice, and the inalienable right to life. However, these words reek of hypocrisy when we consider this country’s racist history of oppression and marginalization of its Black and Brown citizens, not to mention the myriad number of cases of police brutality.
“Liberty and justice for all,” so long as you are of the right skin color, sex, gender, income bracket, sexual identity, religion, ability, national origin, and political affiliation.
Chattel slavery was in full force when the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights were written, which tells us they were written to secure the rights and privileges of White people. These rights have only ever applied to Black people after we have had to fight to make them apply to us, and even then, the words still do not always ring true.
Does this country firmly believe that “all men are created equal?” Ask Emmett Till.
Is this truly the “land of the free?” Ask Harriet Tubman.
Have we ever had “liberty and justice for all?” Ask the Exonerated 5.
Does everyone have the “unalienable right” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Ask Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, or George Floyd.
Our fight has always been, and will always be, to make this country stand by its own claims to “hold these truths to be self-evident.”
All of the injustices that we have witnessed in this country, especially the Jan. 6th domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol, have made the American flag symbolic of oppression and White supremacy in much the same way as the Confederate flag.
Has the American flag just become a substitute for the Confederate flag?
This is especially true when you live in a state where many of its White citizens drive around in large 4X4 pick-up trucks on monster truck wheels with MAGA, Blue Lives Matter, and Don’t Tread on Me bumper stickers. Or when they go out coal-rolling on Black people. Or when they yell out the word “ni**er” as they drive past a Black person.
And all these instances with their American flags flying high out the back window of their pick-up trucks.
I have seen homes with the American flag hanging right next to the Confederate flag. These people call themselves Patriots, but they may as well be burning crosses.
Liberty and Justice for All?
“Liberty and justice for all,” so long as you are of the right skin color, sex, gender, income bracket, sexual identity, religion, ability, national origin, and political affiliation. My daughter began to realize the same when she was in middle school, and she came to me one day to tell me that she was having trouble believing in it and reciting it in school, so she stopped.
Later, she also told me that her teacher had been repeatedly trying to force her to say it. Yes, her white teacher repeatedly kept trying to force a Black child to recite the Pledge. It had been going on for months, and when the teacher finally got exasperated with my daughter, she told her that she had to have a parent write a note to explain.
Unlawful Actions from a Teacher
First off, this is a completely unlawful act. According to the 1943 Supreme Court decision, it is unlawful to force children to pledge allegiance to the flag based on both freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which includes the freedom for anyone not to be forced to speak against their will. I handled it first with the teacher by writing her a note saying that my daughter doesn’t say it because she chooses not to, and if she needed to discuss it with me further, to give me a call. Had this not been the end of it, I was prepared to take it higher, but she never tried it again.
Until racism and oppression end, until Black lives matter, until we actually do have “liberty and justice for all,” I will continue to stand firmly on my beliefs.
Until the words of the Pledge are true, to me it is nothing more than nationalist propaganda, because if one part of a statement is a lie, the entire statement is a lie. And my refusal to say it has nothing to do with my patriotism, so anyone who wants to claim that I should just leave the country can save the ridiculous gaslighting attempts. It has to do with holding this country accountable for its actions so that it makes the words of the Pledge true for everyone. Until that day comes, until racism and oppression end, until Black lives matter, until we actually do have “liberty and justice for all,” I will continue to stand firmly on my beliefs.
Written by L.A. Justice. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.
To read more from L.A. Justice, visit her Medium page.