Take a seat for your rights

Courtesy photo.

By MICAH SMITH, Ranger Reporter:

Leilani Thomas was docked participation points for simply refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Lower Lake high school student felt she was exercising her First Amendment right, but was told by her teacher that she was being disrespectful. Thomas’s actions were a reflection of what the Pledge of Allegiance means to her as a Native American. Minorities have been taking a stand – well, more of a “sit” – to voice their complaints against racism in America today. Critics hail these actions as “unpatriotic” and “tyrannical”; however, as a woman of color, I see it as remarkably brave.

This controversial trend began when black NFL star, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand during the national anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said the 49ers quarterback in an interview with ESPN.

There have been many complaints about Kaepernick’s actions, but also much praise. Veterans who “stand” by these actions proclaim that they have fought to defend everyone’s First Amendment right, even when it means defying patriotism. Regardless of the backlash that the athlete received, he still refuses to stand until the justices of the oppressed are met.

If there is one thing that Americans love, it is their right to freedom of expression. Amid the celebration of our constitutional rights that were granted to every American, something was lost.

Who did we decide was able to exercise their First Amendment rights? Who did we decide would need to remain vigilant and silent?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” That is why I refuse to see the tyranny in people of color banding together to not praise a nation that refuses to hear their voice.

Leilani Thomas walked into her school believing she had the same rights as every other student there, only to be enlightened by the realization that at every turn, there was someone trying to take away her voice. This is a time where sitting down is more powerful than the act of standing up.

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