Those are the words Orange County, Florida school district members want to force students to say, unless their parents sign a permission slip allowing them to protest. These are high school students, some of which may be legal adults already, capable of participating in elections yet simultaneously told they are too young to engage in political acts.
This isn’t one nation under God. That’s why I refused to recite the pledge as a devout child. I knew enough about persecuted Christians in China to greatly value the first amendment freedoms of religion and protest, and always saw them as related. This isn’t a country with liberty and justice for all. Millions of non violent offenders sit in jails (no liberty) while rapists, even the scant minority who are convicted, roam free (no justice). Forcing students tyo recite these words is immoral, and illegal.
The 1943 Supreme Court case West Virginia State Board of Education v . Barnette settled this question more than seventy years agho. The Court ruled that students could not be compelled to recite the pledge. Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Jackson asserted, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”A Florida 1942 state law requiring students to stand asnd recite the pledge was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in that state in 2006, resulting in a school district having to pay $32,500 to a student who’d been ridiculed and labeled unpatriotic by their teacher for not reciting the pledge.
This protest is about the worlds separating this spoken ideal from the lived reality of millions of black Americans. From police harassment to stop and frisk, from no knock raids to cops gunning down a mother and her children over traffic tickets, America is a dangerous and brutal place for black people. An average of one unarmed black man per day is killed by US police forces, while most armed white criminals are taken to jail alive.
If this protest offends you but these killings don’t, I’m going to have to argue your “patriotism” is simply racism. Why would you want insincere pledges? What good comes of having people who don’t mean it rattle off a memorized sentence that doesn’t reflect truth? The only thing I see you can get from this is fealty – not devotion, but obedience. And that comes from the long, ugly, unforgivable history of race based slavery. Who cares if the black people are safe? Not white America. We just want quiet obedience.
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