The Pledge of Allegiance, Little White Lies, and All that Jazz!

It has been more than 50 years since I was in elementary school in the New York City public school system, yet I remember, word for word, the “Pledge of Allegiance.”  At this time, I thought nothing of it, but more than 30 years had passed when I last recited it.  I was at an event, a graduation, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance was on the Program.  Without hesitation, I recited the Pledge, word for word.  I then thought, what a number had been done on me, enculturating and indoctrinating me as a child!  (James Clavell deconstructs the Pledge in The Children’s Story.)

Similarly, when I was in middle school, I remember studying World War II, in which my father, a native Southern son, was drafted as a teenager.  Specifically, I remember the lesson of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Beyond the facts, the instructor said that dropping the bombs on these two Japanese cities were necessary and “saved American lives,” that is, the war ended sooner.  We didn’t learn anything about how 127,000 Japanese Americans, the majority U.S. citizens, were interred in concentration camps in the western interior of the country after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

In this country, I was born and designated a “Negro” (on my original birth certificate) at the very beginning of the Decisive Decade (the 1960s), where leaders, Black and White, were assassinated, where there was unrest on the streets.  The mythical Camelot of JFK’s short presidency morphed into LBJ’s Great Society, until Richard Nixon, running for the presidency, declared the modern War on Crime (1968), stating that the Great Society had become “lawless.”  (This is part of the origin story of mass incarceration, but that’s another story.)

That year, 1968, was pivotal.  Although a child, I remember not only the Pledge of Allegiance, but also the slogans of the Black Power Movement, and the hit songs of James Brown – “Say it loud: I’m Black and I’m proud!”  I also remember the assassination of Dr. King, and the refrain of the adults: “They killed another good Black man!”  I was 7 years of age, but from the adults’ response to Dr. King’s assassination, I knew that something cataclysmic had occurred, something that has continued to reverberate in American life and politics, and recently resurfaced in the Culture Wars.

The so-called Culture Wars is a nod to white supremacy, buttressed by “little white lies.”  Those opposed to Critical Race Theory prefer the sanitized and mythological version of American history, where even Rebels who seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America are memorialized with monuments and statues, as if they are heroes, not villains!  Nowhere in the annals of history, except these here United States, to my knowledge, do “losers” in a Civil War get to tell a counter-narrative about what exactly happened.  In short, the Union, hellbent on reuniting the Union, let the Confederate States of America reimagine slavery, in the form of sharecropping, segregation, and a Penal Code that took advantage of the Exception (to slavery) Clause.  (Another part of the origin story of mass incarceration.)

Many white Americans are nostalgic about the “good ol’ days,” but the good ol’ days were very bad, and not only for Black Americans, but also for people of color, including the Japanese, and the Chinese.

I’m not surprised that part of this so-called Culture War is being waged in elementary school.  If we plant certain ideas in fertile young minds, they will grow and proliferate, and we have no such Treaty with ourselves about the Nonproliferation of Propaganda and Little White Lies.


About William Eric Waters, aka Easy Waters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on
This entry was posted in Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, crime, Growing Up, John F. Kennedy, Justice Chronicles, Lest We Forget, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Patriotism, Politics, raising black boys, Revolution, Slavery, Streets of Rage, urban decay, Urban Impact and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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