Students Take a Seat For Injustice


Juniors Jason Zimbelmann and Alyssa Foy stand before one of the American flags found in many classrooms. Zimbelmann stands during the Pledge, but not Foy.

By Sydney Kinzy, Parkway West High

“…One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Not everyone agrees with this controversial last line of the Pledge of Allegiance, which echoes throughout the school daily.

“I sit during the Pledge because I don’t believe what it stands for. Why should I pledge my life and loyalty to this country that doesn’t do the same for me?” junior Gabi Thompson said, who is an active member of African American Student Acceleration Program (ASAP). “I feel like my people are persecuted in this country and always have been. I can’t love a country that has hated me since I was born. That sounds really dramatic, but it’s true.”

Students across the country took a seat during the Pledge after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem to support people of color.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said to the National Football League (NFL). “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

After the passing of House Bill 1750 on Feb. 16, the Pledge is required every day in public schools across Missouri. A recent Pathfinder survey found that only 35.9 percent of students like saying the Pledge daily, compared to last year when it was only said on Mondays.

“I felt comfortable with what I was saying but not the principle of it,” sophomore Natan Shpringman said, who started sitting during the Pledge a few years ago. “It felt like there wasn’t substance to it. What’s actually in the Pledge I agree with, but I don’t agree with having to rattle it off every day and stand up for it.”

The Missouri Representative who sponsored that bill, Shane Roden, wants to push another law requiring it to be stated in English.

“Next thing you know we’re reciting our Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic,” Roden said to CBS Local St. Louis. “The Pledge of Allegiance needs to be recited in the English language because that is the official language of Missouri.”

Over 80 percent of students believe that the Pledge does not have to be spoken in English. The same poll also found that 71.8 percent of students still stand during the Pledge, one being junior Sam Gaddis.

“I know that some people stay sitting due to the recent racial conflicts,” Gaddis said. “However, this makes no sense to me. People have fought for African Americans to have rights; stand for Abraham Lincoln, stand for Martin Luther King Jr.”

However, Thompson believes that taking a seat is a respectful act.

“My heart hurts whenever I think about the Pledge or the national anthem. I think about slaves getting thrown off of slave ships and sitting in those tight cramped spaces. Or black people getting beaten just because they sat at a whites only counter or drunk for a water fountain for whites. I think of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. I think of these great black people who stood up for what they believed in, and how wrong that it is that we still have to fight for our rights even today,” Thompson said. “I am ‘standing up’ like Rosa Parks did.”

Vickie Hankammer, the receptionist in the main office, leads the school in the Pledge daily. Both of her parents and her grandparents served in the military.

“I think about it every time [I say it] and I try not to get emotional,” Hankammer said. “I think you’re not just honoring the Pledge of Allegiance; you’re honoring the sacrifice of lives that went into making this country free 200 years ago.”

Principal Jeremy Mitchell, whose father served in Vietnam, believes sitting or kneeling during the Pledge or national anthem sends an offensive message to those who have served.

“I respect everyone’s opinion, and I respect the fact people don’t want to, [they would rather] sit and not stand, but my argument would be that there is a much better way of doing it by not possibly offending those around them who they have no intent to offend,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell suggests students who feel passionately about the Pledge should email representative Roden.

“Use that time, use that energy, use that place to email legislator [Shane Roden],” Mitchell said. “Say that by accepting all people, all Americans, regardless of race, color, sexual preference—you name it—by us all coming together and having a conversation [is better than] us all reciting a pledge that somehow you think will make us all more patriotic.”

Read the original story here.