By Amihan del Rosario-Tapan
I wrote this to show the patriarchal practices of saying the Pledge of Allegiance and what it truly means to stand for the flag, from the perspective of an American and an immigrant.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,”
My strong, small voice declares as my tiny hand rests on top of my heart. I am four years old, holding my head up to face the flopped flag in the center of the gymnasium where it dangles above the cross. Chanting the words here, in the school connected to the Church, just like they do every morning at schools across the United States. The memory is distant but present, the sound of a hundred kids in unison,
“and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible with”
The deja vu echoes in my head as I hear the tiny swimmers start saying the words, facing the roaring flag. Surrounded by people who look nothing like me, I don’t stand. Driving through Sussex, where an all-black flag with a single blue stripe is on every other lawn. My mind goes to the people with a red dot on the back of their head simply because of the color of their skin. Struggling to get by without a blue stripe’s knee on their neck, so no, I would not stand for,
“liberty and justice for all”
if it isn’t true. Not when the flag I am pledging to represents the unpaid, enslaved labor that built what is called “The United States.” Not when anyone who takes a closer look will see millions of divided people. I sit on the concrete, looking out onto the lake and remember back home in the city where the protesters stood fiercely against that blue stripe, but out here, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
This piece first came as a memory. Me sitting down for the pledge of allegiance at a swim meet in a red county. It gave me flashbacks of saying the pledge that I had forgotten in pre-k. For this piece, my mentor and I laid out the pledge of allegiance to figure out where we would break it up. Then I went in and wrote about my experiences with the flag.
Amihan is a writer and artist from Harlem. She spends her free time creating art, singing and playing guitar. She’s written pieces on identity and societal change. Over quarantine, she’s been spending time with her family and puppy in her vacation home on a lake.