There’s one thing that hasn’t been mentioned in mainstream media, social media, and the barber shops in the debates and rhetoric over the national anthem protests initially started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the NFL preseason. Are those who are upset over the players protests, this upset with those who’ve fought (and are still fighting) against the pledge of allegiance from schools and other events? To me, that is more unpatriotic and disrespectful to America.
I’m old enough, but still young enough, to remember when we recited the pledge in school work each day. But when I switched from private school to Columbus (OH) Public Schools in 1987 at age 7 (second grade), no school I went to after that recited the pledge, EVER. I’ve spoken with several family, friends and co-workers my age and older who experienced the same. Only one person in almost two dozen I asked recited the pledge through High School graduation. I have nieces and nephews in Columbus Ohio, Houston Texas, Thomaston and Statesboro Georgia, as well as Palm Coast Florida from ages 17 to 5 who haven’t recited or learned the pledge at school.
Not to bore you with legalese, but here’s some information for you about the fight over the pledge. First, in the case of The West Virginia State Board of Education versus Barnette (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled requiring a person to recite the pledge violates a persons first and fourteenth amendment rights. The only time the pledge was ever ruled unconstitutional was in 2005 by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. And in January of 2009, in the case of Frazier vs. Alexandre – The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling stating schools could excuse a student from the pledge with a note from a parent. There are many more cases where the pledge has been fought, click here if you want to learn more.
I point out those court battles to say, even without any legal precedent requiring or mandating schools to stop reciting the pledge of allegiance, no one stood up and made sure it’s being done every morning, nor did anyone say we were being disrespectful and unpatriotic for not doing so. No one said the people fighting the pledge were disrespecting the veterans, the flag, or this country. In all the cases lost by a plaintiff fighting to remove the pledge or “under God” from it, the presiding judge said in some form that “the pledge is an exercise in patriotism.” That is why in my opinion, it is more important than the anthem because it is a show of your loyalty to America.
Standing up for the national anthem doesn’t make a person any more American than eating hot dogs and hamburgers while shooting off fireworks on the 4th of July could. Most people are like zombies during the anthem anyway. Take a look around next time you’re in an arena or stadium while it’s being played. You’ll see what I’m talking about, most people don’t even remove their hats out of respect when they are asked too.
But pledging your allegiance is an actual action that professes your commitment to the values for which the flag is SUPPOSED to represent. Which is what Colin Kaepernick and others are upset about. The values of that flag aren’t being kept. At least not for ALL Americans.
As far as my feelings about athletes’ anthem protests, I choose to slightly modify the words comedian Chris Rock and say “I wouldn’t do it, but I understand.” The reason I say I wouldn’t participate in anthem protests, is not because I don’t agree with Kaepernick and others’ issues with social injustices in this country that I as a black man and other black and brown people have experienced, but because anthem protest have been done before and it has been proven throughout history that those we want to hear us will turn a deaf ear when that stance is taken. Case in point, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Mahmoud Abdu-Rauf (aka Chris Jackson).
I don’t necessarily have a better idea for a protest. But, the players who want to protest could do so by not playing. Especially the big name, marquee players who the games revolves around. That method would probably work better in the NBA. We’ll see what happens when they tip-off in late October.
For those who say the anthem should be changed to something less racist like “America the beautiful”, I agree with you. First, it’s a better sounding and more moving song. But most importantly, for me as a devout Christian, within the lyrics it says “God bless America for me” and I agree with any sentiment that asks God to take control of this country. Lord knows we need it. But we know a drastic move like changing the anthem is never going to happen, because those that are in favor of removing the pledge because it required those who didn’t believe in a higher power to say “one nation under God” are the same people who won’t want the national anthem to evoke the name of God either. So you can scratch that.
But back to my original point of writing this. If kneeling, raising a fist or turning your back during the national anthem is disrespectful and un-American, then why isn’t fighting to remove the pledge? Or not reciting the pledge at all? I think I know why. It’s because the anthem protests don’t suit your agenda, like it did when when you fought against the pledge because it was “too religious” for you or was “forcing religion” on you. Like I said, anybody can stand and remove their hat for the anthem (which again, most don’t, but we don’t make a big deal about that!) But it takes a REAL PATRIOT to pledge their allegiance and loyalty to their country. So who’s REALLY being disrespectful to America? And why aren’t you mad about that?!