Liberty and Justice for All

Every day at public schools nationwide, students and teachers rise to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This routine has been engrained into our daily schedule for decades. It represents our patriotism. Observing students around me, I see some of my peers idly muttering the Pledge, sending texts, or simply staring at the American flag. As an American, I strongly value the last few words of the Pledge, which are representative of this nation’s ideals: “…liberty and justice for all.” I feel so proud to stand alongside other members of this nation as we remind ourselves of the values that built this great country. But these same values are slowly being replaced by bigotry as anti-Muslim rhetoric increases and hate crimes are directed against African-Americans.

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration is “not what this country stands for,” as there are thousands of Muslims who are serving in the armed forces to protect this country (Walsh, Diamond, & Barrett, 2015). Despite Ryan’s public condemnation of the proposal, Trump gained widespread approval at a rally in Iowa. Supporters explained that they support the ban on Muslim immigration because they see it as a preventative measure for future domestic bombings (Diamond, 2015). A couple also asserted their approval of the ban at a rally in Mechanicsville, Virginia, because they want to “take their country back.” Trump has targeted areas of the United States where the number of Muslim Americans is limited. Thus, these supporters do not have the opportunity to see the contrast between peaceful Muslims and radical extremists who wrongly use Islam as a justification for terrorism. The great majority of Muslims worldwide do not share the extremists’ beliefs. However, a double standard exists. Craig Hicks, a man who shot three Muslims in North Carolina last February, does not represent every Christian or Caucasian male (Winter, 2015). Generalizing about a group of people on the basis of race, religion, or nationality, is a form of injustice and ignorance that has fueled a false sense of paranoia in this nation for decades.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942, over 127,000 Japanese Americans were interned (Japanese-American Internment, 2015). Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order to relocate all Japanese Americans to internment camps. But their relocation only spurred fear and paranoia instead of peacefully integrating people of all backgrounds. It is wrong to assume that one’s race, religion, or ethnicity automatically deems them dangerous and “un-American”. How can we recite the words “liberty and justice for all” from the Pledge of Allegiance, yet order a vast number of people to be placed in internment camps?

Not only have Americans faced injustice based on their ethnicity and religion, but they have also been discriminated against for their race. Take for instance Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was shot by a police officer in November, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. The officer assumed that Rice’s toy gun was a real firearm and killed the boy after judging the scene for mere seconds (Fantz, Almasy, & Shoichet, 2015). Even though the officer’s snap judgements cost the life of a child, prosecutor Tim McGinty states that evidence does not indicate criminal conduct by police. It’s no coincidence that Tamir is African-American. Everyone can easily think of several names of black Americans who have faced injustice at the hands of a police officer. Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice. When will the list end?

When I return to school on Monday morning, I will gladly recite the Pledge of Allegiance. But the fire in my heart will continue to burn with the hope that one day, there will be liberty and justice for all.

 

Works Cited

Diamond, J. (2015, December 8). Donald Trump: Ban all Muslim travel to U.S. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/07/politics/donald-trump-muslim-ban-immigration/

Elmir, R. (2015, December 28). Stop asking me to condemn terrorists just because I’m Muslim. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/12/28/stop-asking-me-to-condemn-terrorists-just-because-im-muslim/?postshare=951451343737761&tid=ss_tw-bottom

Fantz, A., Almasy, S., & Shoichet, C. E. (2015, December 28). Tamir Rice shooting: No charges for officers. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/28/us/tamir-rice-shooting/

Japanese-American Internment. (2015, December 31). Retrieved from U.S. History Online Textbook: http://www.ushistory.org/us/51e.asp

Walsh, D., Diamond, J., & Barrett, T. (2015, December 8). Priebus, Ryan and McConnell rip Trump anti-Muslim proposal. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/08/politics/paul-ryan-trump-comments-not-who-we-are-as-a-party/index.html

Winter, M. (2015, February 16). N.C. man indicted in slayings of 3 Muslim students. Retrieved from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/02/16/chapel-hill-killings-muslims-parking/23514293/

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