I do not believe in censorship. I believe so strongly in the First Amendment that I refuse to censor even the most inane and/or offensive comments people post on my FaceBook page, which sometimes causes irritation among my friends on FB, but I tell them this: "If I believe that it is acceptable to censor you or anyone else, what is stopping you from censoring me? To condone, advocate or passively stand by while others' rights are taken away is foolish - what is to stop those people from trying to take away my rights if I allow them to take away others' rights?" If something is offensive, don't read it, turn the channel, turn off the media, switch to a different website. But don't sit there and complain that someone is offending your sensibilities because you were too dumb to put the paper down or turn off the TV/radio.
However, there are times when caution needs to be taken when it comes to Freedom of Speech, as in the case of the teacher and principal (who claims to not have known what was planned for announcements that day) of East Ridge High School when they decided to broadcast a presentation commemorating the Black Panther Party to the entire school. It was not Freedom of Speech, it was Propaganda and Indoctrination. The students were captive listeners in that situation. The students in school that morning could not avoid hearing the announcements. They could avoid actively listening to the announcements, but could not leave, turn off the broadcast, etc. during the announcements.
So, last night as I was talking to my husband about the controversy, I re-read the poem in question, "A Black Child's Pledge," and started to think about the ways in which this poem could be taught in a classroom. As I said in my previous post, the piece on its own and viewed in the context in which it was written, is an interesting piece and in all truthfulness, is an important one as it was written during one of the most tumultuous times in recent American history. It could be taught in literature and history classes and serve the purpose of educating students about 1960's lit and the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, the way it was presented to the students on the morning of February 14th, it was used as a method of commemorating a group of militant, socialist thugs: The Black Panthers.
I read the poem again and was struck by the language within it: Instead of pledging allegiance to America, the child is pledging allegiance only to the black members of America. Instead of pledging to do no harm and to protect other Americans, the child is pledging only to do no harm and protect other black Americans. The theme of the poem is one of unity within the black community and war with anyone who does not belong to that community. Is this the inclusive, multicultural viewpoint that has been pushed by educators and Progressive leaders for many years? Or is this more race war tactics of the type that has been perpetuated by our President and other leaders? And what about the references to "liberation"? I understand the idea of freedom from the oppressive Jim Crow/segregation laws of the time - but to take the idea of "liberation" forward to the 21st Century makes less sense to me. When Barack Obama is in the White House, Condi Rice was Secretary of State and Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest women alive, the idea liberation is foreign when viewed through the lenses of race. Furthermore, how were the children who are not black supposed to take the meaning of the poem? Were they supposed to raise their fists in a Black Power salute or hang their heads in shame for being seen as oppressors of others? Or were they to just sit there silently listening as a poem affirming black unity was read and linked to a militant, violent group of people who believed fully in the principles being pledged, including but not limited to, killing non-black American citizens if they felt that those non-black people were infringing on their right of liberation?
What if it were any race or creed or religion other than Black and tied with a militant anti-any-other-race group being commemorated, even if that group played some kind of significant role in history? What if, instead of a "Black Child's Pledge" the poem was titled "A White Child's Pledge"? What if the poem started with: "I pledge allegiance to my White People....I will learn all that I can in order to give my best to my People in their struggle for liberation....make me less capable of protecting myself, my family and my White brothers and sisters....I will train myself to never hurt or allow others to harm my White brothers and sisters...These principles I pledge to practice daily and to teach them to others in order to unite my People." And, what if following that poem, there was a presentation commemorating the Ku Klux Klan as "The People of the Day"? Like the Black Panther Party, the KKK is part of American History. They were (are) a militant group that began in the post-Civil War (1866) era of Reconstruction, a terroristic organization used to intimidate black Americans and break up Republican meetings (Frances Rice). (The irony of a "White Child's Pledge" being used in conjunction with the KKK is the seldom-mentioned fact that the early KKK lynched at least 1,000 white Republicans who were assisting the newly freed slaves vote, own property and find their way in their newly acquired freedom from slavery.) What if instead of a "Black Child's Pledge" it was a "You-Enter-the-Race/Ethnicity/etc. Child's Pledge" being read in conjunction with a commemoration of a militant group associated with that Race/Ethnicity? What if it was a "Muslim Child's Pledge" with a commemorative speech about Al Qaeda following the poem? Would parents be appalled to hear that while the Nazi Youth Pledge was read to commemorate Hitler during "German History Month" that some children raised their hands in a straight-armed Nazi Salute? Would there be an outcry of indignation then? Would people go to the school and demand an apology? Would the parents be calling the principle and teacher and demanding to know why such racist drivel was being inflicted upon their children? Would people stand idly by and be placated as the principle said "I didn't vet the information being presented...I'll try to do better from now on...it has to do with history; we feel that the children need to know about important people in history..." Or would those parents pitch fits, threaten to sue, and harass the school staff until SOMETHING WAS DONE ABOUT IT?
So, if the previous examples are offensive and feel wrong to people, why is a pass being given to the principal and teachers of East Ridge High School? Or is it true that only black Americans have suffered so much that they are the only ones allowed to salute - pumping their fists in the air in solidarity with the poem as it's read and continuing as militaristic, socialist, anti-white, anti-cop, anti-Capitalism groups are commemorated during the month set aside to focus solely on Black American history? Or have we all become so afraid, so PC that either we fear reprisals against our kids or ourselves if we speak out or we believe that we can't speak out in case we OFFEND someone? Or, have we all been so completely brainwashed that we AGREE with the poem and the militant Black Panthers - as white Americans, we, by virtue of our heritage and skin color, were the ones inflicting the wrongs on every other race in history even though most of us weren't even born while the atrocities were being carried out nor would we dream of ever treating ANYONE the way minority groups have been treated throughout the history of our country? Or have we forgotten MLK's dream of a land where People are judged by the content of their characters, not by the color of their skin?
If any of the previous statements is the case, there's no wonder there were people rallying for Christopher Dorner and his sick manifesto in California this weekend without reprisal or condemnation from anyone in the MSM or left-side of the aisle. And there's no wonder why the principle of East Ridge High School and his Sociology teacher, Ms. Tishanna Brown, continue to believe that what happened on Valentine's Day was just not that big of a deal.