by Fudia Muhammad
Most primary and secondary schools in the United States begin the school day with the Pledge of Allegiance. Students are asked to stand and face the United States flag; put their right hand to their heart and recite the pledge. If you attend public schools in the State of Texas, the United States pledgeis followed by a pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag [yep, Texas has its own pledge]. After both pledges, there is one-minute of silence. During that one-minute of silence, “Each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student” (Texas Education Code). In addition, most public schools also include the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner (National Anthem) at the start of school-affiliated major events like graduation ceremonies, athletic competitions, and specialty programs.
The masses of Black and Brown children in the United States are not enrolled in private schools which have the freedom of independent expectations, curriculum and daily operations. This puts the majority of our people in a conundrum when faced with the dilemma of participating (or not) in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. In the name of so-called patriotism and promotion of American exceptionalism, our children are being forced to listen to, recite and promote outright lies.
The U.S. pledge of allegiance has been changed over the course of time, but currently it reads,“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.” A Republic built with slave labor and undergirded by white supremacy is in no way submitting the rule of God; its divided upon inception and is incapable of providingliberty and justice for all. It is hypocritical and absurd to require any Black, Brown or oppressed group to ever utter these words in school or at any time.
The National Anthem is worse. In his August 2016 letter to Colin Kaepernick, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan wrote, “Your stand has unearthed things about Francis Scott Key and the writing of the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner, that would make any person of right thinking and right mind cringe at what was in the mind of the man that wrote the words of the Star-Spangled Banner.” The Star-Spangled Banner, a.k.a. National Anthem, is blantantly racist and unapologetically hateful of Black people. Americans who choose to sing the anthem must accept that the lyrics they are beltingout express America’s love of slavery. Most notable, in the third stanza (of four) the lyrics read in part,“Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution | No refuge could save the hireling and slave | From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.” Francis Scott Key was a virulent racist. He wanted this specific section included so everyone would know how much he loathed the fact that Black people had the gall to fight for their personal freedom.
With this as a backdrop, if our children attend a school where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, or the National Anthem is sung, how should we, as parents guide them? First, we must make sure they have read every word of the pledge and anthem and understand the meaning behind its historical context. Secondly, they should understand that America’s flag is a symbol without substance. It has never represented freedom, justice and equality for Black, Brown and oppressed people. Provide evidence to show children how we continue to be discriminated against, brutalized, dismissed and murdered while “Old Glory” is idolized and worshiped. But ultimately, we must also follow the guidance of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
During a press conference several years ago, David Broder, a Washington Post columnist, asked The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to share what it was in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance that he found impossible to say. The Minister responded, “‘Liberty and justice for all’ is one. As a Muslim, I cannot give my all to the symbol of a government, no matter what that government is. As a Muslim, I give my allegiance only to God. And I submit to the laws that govern this land, as long as those laws do not conflict with my religion. That is a basic principle of my belief, and there are many American citizens who subscribe to faiths other than Islam who will not pledge allegiance to the flag. I will never disrespect that flag. I don’t agree with flag burnings. I don’t agree with draping the flag of an independent and sovereign nation over toilets. I don’t believe in anyone not respecting the flag of this sovereign nation. And whenever “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played, even though I will not pledge allegiance, I stand in respect. That is the best that I can give to the flag, is respect…”
As a people, we hope to one day establish an independent sovereign Nation of our own, so The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches his followers to stand, out of respect for that which we hope to one day become. This is the way we should also guide our children. We should stand when the pledge is recited; and we should stand when the anthem is sung. However, we DO NOT salute the United States flag; we DO NOT place our hand over our heart to honor the flag; we DO NOT recite the words of the pledge or sing the national anthem; and we certainly DO NOT give our allegiance to ANY flag, symbol or country. We will find in the word “allegiance” the word “all.”As a Believer – Muslim, Christian, or Jew, our ‘all’ should only be given to Allah (God). We bow only to Allah (God). This is the way of the righteous.
We must however, continue to stress the bigger picture. As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan told Colin Kaepernick, “I stand with you. We in the Nation of Islam stand with you.” And we continue to stand with and support those who choose to kneel in protest of police brutality and all other racial injustices. We, more than anyone understand why so many of our people choose to kneel or sit; and can easily defend their right to do so. They are true patriots; calling attention to America’s wickedness so that she may atone and correct herself. However, there will come a time sooner rather than later when we will all be forced to reckon with the reality that no matter how much we kneel, sit, protest, march or vote; America will never be great, and she must be judged accordingly by Allah (God). The Kingdom of God on earth will be established; Allah (God)will be the sole ruler; the righteous will inherit the earth; and the greatest and only flag of the Universe – the Sun, Moon and Star will reign supreme!
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)