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Opinion

Opinion: The pledge of allegiance is hypocritical

As more and more people become aware of the rampant discrimination present in the U.S., support for continuing the Pledge of Allegiance in schools has fallen
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/edwinbai/" target="_self">Edwin Bai</a>

Edwin Bai

June 28, 2022
In many schools across America, every day when students enter their school classroom in the morning, they are expected to recite a pledge of allegiance to the United States flag with their classmates. While most people will overlook such a short and simple tradition, its meaning and importance are much greater than most people will imagine.

As multiculturalism begins to take root in the U.S., more and more people become receptive to the meaning and message behind the pledge, with some viewing it as having a negative connotation. Given the changes in American culture and society since the inception of the country, such a pledge should be outlawed in public schools. 

An obvious issue in the Pledge of Allegiance is its conflict with religions outside of Christianity, due to its statement that the U.S. is “one nation, under God.” Whilst the addition of “under God” was added at a time when Christianity was the dominant religion in the U.S. by far, according to Gallup, times have changed, and nowadays our religious demographics are much more diverse, with a growing population of non-Christians and atheists.

According to the Pew Research Center, around 34%-39% of Americans identify as atheists or as a religious minority, over ⅓ of the country. Considering the significant percentage of people who do not believe in Christianity, how can it still be considered appropriate for students of all religions to utter a phrase that was clearly meant for Christians?

Should the followers of Allah and Yahweh simply cast aside their religion to follow the belief that the nation is united under Christian God?

While the Pledge was applicable to everyone in a Christian majority nation, in a country in which ⅓ of its population is non-Christian, such a pledge is a slap in the face for a country that prides itself on diversity. This is not even mentioning that our nation was built on religious freedom and the separation of church and state. 

In fact, in 2013, Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, reached the same conclusion in his attempt to remove the mention of God in the pledge, according to CNN. He too, cited issues with compelling children to recite something against their beliefs.

While the Massachusetts Supreme Court may not have agreed with his beliefs, his argument unveils the stark reality of the discrimination present within the Pledge of Allegiance. This incompatibility of beliefs and faiths clearly illustrates the stark outdatedness of the Pledge of Allegiance in modern times.

Moreover, this Pledge also alienates foreign immigrants looking for better education in America, specifically in K-12 education where the pledge is mandatory. According to the New York Times, around 30% of all college students in 2018 came from a family that had immigrated to the U.S.

It’s undeniable that immigrants have been, and will continue to be, an important component of our demographics, so why is it that we treat them so poorly yet expect them to recite a pledge to the nation? 

As reported by Boston’s NPR WBUR, hate crimes against Latinos are at their highest in the U.S. in nearly a decade. It’s no surprise that Latinos are treated poorly in the U.S., given former President Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric toward them, and Latino students are not exempt from this type of treatment either.

So why should we expect marginalized communities such as Latinos to pledge allegiance to the nation that treats them with prejudice and intolerance?

Regardless of increasing support for Trump from the Latino community, a majority of Latinos still oppose Trump and his hateful rhetoric, according to Pew Research Center shows Democrats have a 21% lead within the Latino voter base.

Furthermore, this pattern extends to Asian Americans as well, as anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 339% nationwide in 2021, according to NBC News. Disturbingly, the World Economic Forum claims that a quarter of Asian youths experienced some form of racism during the pandemic within the United States.

As proven by these sources, Asian Americans also suffer from discrimination in the U.S., a pattern consistent with America’s history of prejudice against Asians. Similar to Latino students, why should we expect innocent Asian students to recite a pledge of allegiance to a country that has historically treated them poorly and blames them for the COVID pandemic?

Due to ethnic discrimination apparent within marginalized communities, children should not be required to recite a pledge of allegiance nor sit and watch as other classmates pledge their allegiance to a country that treats them badly. 

Commonly, people argue that those who refuse to pledge their allegiance should leave the country. Even if someone refuses to pledge allegiance to the U.S., they shouldn’t be required to leave the country because of it.

Many immigrants come to the U.S. in search of economic opportunities or to escape tense political situations in other countries, and they have every right to stay considering the economic benefits they provide for the nation as a whole with their labor. Leaving this nation is difficult too, the costs of moving, learning another country’s language, and adjusting to different norms and culture are harsh for many.

The U.S. is different from most countries due to its diverse cultural demographics that allow immigrants to feel comfortable and at home in ethnic enclaves, which is part of what makes it so appealing to immigrants.

Given that leaving this country is difficult and adding on the fact that immigrants benefit our economy greatly, immigrants should not be expected to leave a nation simply for refusing to recite a Pledge of Allegiance to a country that treats them poorly.  

Whilst some people may believe that it is important to express one’s dedication to a nation that houses them, we as a society have simply outgrown the need for a pledge of allegiance. While the pledge may have been an expression used to collectivize national unity against the USSR, according to History, that threat doesn’t exist anymore.

Nowadays, the pledge is largely useless and meaningless for its intended purpose of procuring national unity. As mentioned beforehand, pledging allegiance to a nation that doesn’t always treat its citizens properly is both hypocritical and a slap in the face to the nation’s supposed values. 

Some say that the pledge of allegiance is done out of respect for this nation, but it’s hard for some children to respect the country when they’re discriminated against because of their skin color or religion. In fact, this sentiment was demonstrated in 2019 through a sixth-grade student in Florida who refused to stand for the pledge and was subsequently arrested by the police, according to CNN.

The student believed that the American flag symbolized discrimination against blacks, and thus refused to pledge his allegiance. Why should someone like him be forced to pledge allegiance to a nation where African Americans experience a greater degree of discrimination and prejudice compared to other communities?

Although this was an isolated local incident, the sentiments expressed by this student echo a wider belief in American society: We just don’t really need the Pledge of Allegiance anymore. 

Though American society is quite diverse and polarized, according to Brown University, Americans, especially immigrants and marginalized communities, should not be forced to recite a pledge against their will or beliefs as part of an effort to establish a solid national identity. Such an identity would be largely forced and illusionary if it were to be mandated.

As more and more people become aware of the rampant discrimination present in the U.S., support for continuing the Pledge of Allegiance in schools has fallen, with over 20 states legally exempting children from reciting the pledge, according to The Hill. While society progresses, it’s necessary to levy changes that correlate with such progress, and as such, the Pledge of Allegiance should not be required in schools.

As one Scary Mommy blogger would say: “the Pledge of Allegiance feels like bullshit when there are people being killed for the color of their skin, for the god they love, for the way they love, or for the way they identify.”

Instead of focusing on forcing everyone to recite this hypocritical pledge, why don’t we focus instead on making our country worthy of its ideals? 

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