“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under…”
Pause! This is where the plot thickens.
It is here, in our darling Pledge of Allegiance, where we at very early ages memorize and recite daily, seemingly impenetrable words. It is here, and only here, where some reality of God as a deity is spuriously welcomed in schools. Quite possibly, it is in this realm, at a very early age where we indirectly confront the inconsistency between our learning experience and our lived experience. Saying it in its simplest form as little Black girls and boys at the start of every school day, was largely incongruent to what a nation had long said about us.
One can’t help but to examine the lasting effects of learning lies about others, while being denied the truth about your own. Clearly, to even the most youthful mind, there’s no God in that type of teaching and learning, despite what we were taught to give allegiance to.
Today’s incredulous language, “Make America Great Again” is a seamless, sinful extension of one of America’s greatest areas of denial concerning race, racism, whiteness and white privilege. Make no mistake about it, any intellectual laziness surrounding history and this school of thought bears a cost I am not willing to pay as a ransom against our children’s complete understanding of these times. Further, this pomposity of thought extends far beyond one’s support of a political party and well into much needed support for critical thinking, teaching, learning and yes, God’s wisdom is critical too.
Not to be confused with favoring a particular party, this article isn’t written for political persuasion and purpose. It is imperative that we speak to what’s all too often conveniently absent when trying to best accentuate America’s race problem. For far too long, America has held as a value, a touted "greatness" long agitated by some of our very own all-time greats. It’s as if America’s assumed greatness has always been at odds with our ancestral greatness, and our own individual greatness. This is easily seen via the life of the late Muhammad Ali, much later deemed the "Greatest of All Time," but was for so long what I deem, the "Greatest of All Threats (G.O.A.T.)."
America’s inability to value Ali's principled stance as a world champion was no less great than America’s inability to value African Americans as fully human. Were it not for his principled prowess and faith, he could’ve become a mere statistic, oddly like so many young men today. Equally so, were it not for our ancestral aptitude and conviction, simply put, we wouldn’t be here today. Take the Dred Scott decision (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and Brown v. Board of Education (1954-1955) for example. These and so many other landmark decisions in America’s courts had to legally affirm what God had physically made so. Having our existence legalized, brutalized and further criminalized reasonably divorces so many of us from any agreement with America’s greatness.
Furthering this, we must evaluate that ensuing word "again" on the backs of “Making America Great…” For starters, I’ll just ask you this: If America’s assumed greatness starts with a "discovery" of land already occupied by our beloved Native American brothers and sisters, then audaciously grows its economy by stealing and killing millions more of our brothers and sisters, what "greatness" are we referring to “again?” I’ve yet to see anyone pressed on this notion of “Making America Great Again.”
Like so much of our world today, our attraction to sensationalism on television, guised as “news” is as aberrant as our enthrallment with militarism and materialism. Perhaps, journalists need to be journalists (again), just as we need to all go back and learn more history (again). Or maybe, just maybe, America’s yet to be great; thus we need to first be born again!
America’s lethargy regarding its wrongdoings is as insulting as its mere apology for murdering millions. At our core is a sin that is continuously glossed over and renounced by an unaddressed American arrogance. It is this arrogance oft times upheld by its surrogate cousins’, "white guilt."
When working together, they allow untrue texts (as such) to enter a race for our highest office, while disallowing the truest of context on why so many others have not a fair race to run, sometimes because of those in office. Can you imagine a Black Panther or Pan-Africanist running for president and making it this far? Would they be deemed “smart” for getting out the vote in pushing their agenda of self-empowerment? Would we hear language like, “He/she is masterful and intelligently appealing to his/her base?”
Despite today’s religious animus, I yet believe there’s room for a personal relationship with God. Biblical context herein favors a ruler by the name of Nicodemus, a well-known teacher of Israel. In witnessing the power of Jesus’ miracles, he was led to inquire for more understanding, to which Jesus replied, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Perhaps then, like Nicodemus, America — a well-known leader — needs to seek better understanding. There’s a spirit of repentance hanging in the balance for greatness to ever be seen. When born again, apologizing for one’s sins and shortcomings is not the same as repenting. If we’re truly a “nation under God,” then there’s an authentic need to turn from our wicked ways of police brutality, educational inequity, greed, mass incarceration and extreme poverty. Regardless of America’s political parties and our fellow American’s ensuing preference during this election season, I nominate a fresher and fairer perspective in making America Great:
“America Must (First) Be Born Again!”
Then, and only then, will we live with true meaning that ending to our pledge, “…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Dr. Chandra Gill is the CEO of Blackademically Speaking, a cutting edge educational consulting firm. She's an award-winning motivational speaker and author of "Champions Break Chains and Black Genes Genes-Black Genius: A Motivational Handbook to Empower Black Youth." She's on a mission to motivate and educate youth worldwide. See her inspire and empower youth here.