Can’t Stand For This

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Merideth Langton

The respect we give to the American flag doesn’t match what our country has done for us.

By Alyx Goldensoph, Kennedy High School - IA

Ever since kindergarten, at around 7:55 in the morning, the click of the announcement speakers would indicate the beginning of the day. Like clockwork, we would stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, the same daily pledge has been mandated in high school.

“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.”

As children, we don’t fully comprehend the notion of pledging our allegiance to this country. We are just taught to stand up and say it. Eventually, we get curious and question why we do it and the most popular answer we are given is “to pay our respects.”

But is this really enough of a reason to promise our loyalty to this country?

The creation of a country is usually rough, but it was even worse for the United States. The establishment of the U.S. involved the displacement and assimilation of the indigenous population who occupied the land for over 10,000 years prior.

No country is perfect in its development either. Every country is going to have its rough patches and dark times. Before the United States was founded, the slavery of African Americans began in this country in 1619 and thrived for more than 200 years, up until it was abolished in 1865.

Even though slavery was gone, African American people were still segregated and treated inhumanely. There were separate drinking fountains and bathrooms, restaurants labeled for “whites only” and bus seating by race. That wasn’t even half of it.

Today, 156 years after the Civil War concluded and 56 years after desegregation, African Americans are often treated worse than the white population. Black people are at a higher risk of facing police brutality. According to justsecurity.org, “Black Americans make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for more than 1 in 4 people killed by police.”

The Black Lives Matter movement was reignited in May 2020 due to a police brutality case caught on video: the murder of George Floyd. This outraged millions of Americans of all skin colors. But some peaceful protests were met with police forces who fired rubber bullets and tear gas. These forces are funded and continue without punishment by the country to which we’re supposed to pledge our loyalty every day.

Racism in this country shines through the “color-blind” wall put up by most people. Racism against African Americans isn’t the only problem—it occurs with every race other than white. Hispanic and Latino people are told to “go back to where they came from” and Asians are mocked for their facial structure.

I don’t stand and pledge my allegiance to this country where these acts are tolerated and even encouraged by some. I protest for those who have died because they weren’t white. Those who were seen as “dangers,” “job stealers” or less than human.

Similar discrimination issues are faced by women in America. Since the creation of the U.S., women have been associated with being less intelligent, less capable and weaker than men. Although there has been some obvious improvement from the 1850s, including a women’s right to vote and job availability, there is still a wage gap. Full-time women earn only 82% as much money as men in the same job positions, according to the Pew Research Center.

Women also lack the ability to make personal decisions about their bodies without the influence or control of men. Rape, incestual rape, being unfit for pregnancy or lacking financial stability is, according to a law created primarily by men, not a suitable reason to get an abortion in many states.

I don’t pledge my allegiance to a country which disrespects and punishes those who bring life into this world.

Not only is there gender inequality, but there is a general lack of gender acknowledgment related to entrenched religious biases against sexuality.

1.4 million adults identify as transgender and 1.2 million adults identify as non-binary openly in the United States. These numbers don’t include minors or closeted people, who would boost these numbers even higher.

Misunderstood gender labels contribute to a lack of representation for those who are transgender or non-binary. Gender is identified by societal norms, behaviors and characteristics. Sex is the biological component of a person, determined by their chromosomes. Gender is not biological sex; it is a social construct.

Being a part of the LGBTQ community is slowly becoming more and more acceptable in today’s society, but homophobia is still a common issue, deeply rooted in Abrahamic religions.

A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found non-affirming religious settings resulted in lesbian, gay and bisexual people dealing with hostile social environments.

I won’t stand and pledge my allegiance to a country where hate is allowed to overwhelm love and freedom of expression is not protected.

Equality shouldn’t be a choice. My loyalty cannot go to a country whose citizens turn a blind eye to intolerance.

Troops in the military didn’t die just for the straight white men of the world. They died for everyone in their country to have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I can’t stand and recite words ignored by those who claim to honor this country. The pledge promises “liberty and justice for all.” I won’t stand until every person in the United States can live without restrictions imposed by authority and society on their lives.

This story was originally published on Kennedy Torch on March 31, 2022.