I Pledged Allegiance To Your Flag. Now What?


Disclaimer: It’s not my place to tell you whether or not standing for the flag is right or wrong, we all have the right to an opinion. Also, this article is in no way made to disrespect anybody who served or is currently serving in the military. The article is simply about the pledge of allegiance and why I figuratively and literally don’t stand for it.


Hand over your heart. No — Right hand. Don’t turn your back to the flag. Stand up, never sit down. Head raised to the flag with a smile. Now say it with your chest, “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.” 


The pledge of allegiance is a vow that has been forced down the throats of students across America. It’s been beaten into us over and over again almost as if they are trying to make us believe the promises said in the pledge are true. Liberty and justice for whom? All? The United States houses injustice and only provides liberty to those who are rich and white. This nation is broken. We are broken. And a pledge isn’t going to help heal the wounds the United States has inflicted on itself. It’s even more frustrating knowing that I was forced into memorizing it at such an early age without knowing the meaning behind any of the words. I was taught to recite, not to think. They wanted blind belief and called it “devotion.” 


Where did the pledge originate from?


The pledge of allegiance, created by a socialist minister named Francis Bellamy, was first published in The Youth’s Companion on September 1st, 1892. Originally it was made for citizens of any country, and it went as follows: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Then in 1923, they added, “of the United States of America.” The last change was in 1954, under the Eisenhower administration, where Eisenhower encouraged congress to add “under God”, despite the objection of Bellamy’s daughter. (More information about the origins of the pledge can be found here.)   


The question then arises: is it illegal to refuse to stand for the pledge of allegiance when asked? The short answer is no. In West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, the Supreme Court ruled that forcefully making students salute the flag is unconstitutional because it violates the 1st amendment. The case revolved around a West Virginia school making the pledge mandatory, even though that violates the Jehovah’s witness religion. In response to this religious violation, many students who were not Jehovah’s witnesses refused to stand for the pledge. This led to their removal from the school, allowing for the case and subsequent ruling we have today.


Picking the Pledge Apart


“I pledge allegiance to the Flag”

  1. The American flag carries weight. To many it symbolizes their country and their home being stripped away from them. To others, the flag signifies war. And to the vast majority of us, it means unkept promises.  


“And to the Republic for which it stands”

  1. The American flag has long been a symbol of American military conquest in the name of democracy. To advocate for a “republic,” or for “liberty and justice” in a nation whose power is rooted in active oppression of those who disagree is morally reprehensible. 

“One Nation”

  1. Does it not feel somewhat hypocritical to say this in a nation that has been rife with sectionalism since its birth? We’ve never been one nation, and we never will be; not while Americans attack their fellow countrymen daily for the crime of their birth, and most certainly not under this flag. 


“Under God”

  1. It’s ignorant to expect a pledge to a God that many Americans aren’t tied to.  This is a direct violation of the first amendment to the constitution.


“With liberty and justice for all.”

  1. James Bladwin said it best in his speech A Talk with Teachers,“Negro who is born in this country and undergoes the American educational  system runs the risk of becoming schizophrenic. […] He pledges allegiance to that flag which guarantees ‘liberty and justice for all.’ But on the other hand he is also assured by his country and his countryman that he has never contributed anything to civilization—that his past is nothing more than a record of humiliations gladly endured.” The pledge tells us one thing but America reflects another. Your white lies are just that. White. Lies. Those very lies with a dash of ignorance, xenophobia, and hatred are like one big pot of stew left on the stove cooking. You know what happens when you leave a pot of stew cooking on the stove unaddressed? It burns. The true melting pot of America.


I pledge to my maternal ancestors that showed me what it’s like and what it means to be a strong black woman to continue their grace and legacy. I pledge to the black authors who came before me that made it possible for me to publish this article to speak my truth. I pledge to all the black lives lost to police brutality to live my life to the fullest because they couldn’t. I pledge to my sister and every black girl that the sky’s the limit. I pledge allegiance to that. To them. Not your flag, so now what?