What does Black Lives Matter Mean to you

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In our modern society, racism is one of the biggest social issue that continuously arises in our history. It is the discrimination and unequal treatment upon groups based on their race and ethnicity. Racism has greatly progressed throughout time towards the African-Americans, who were most oppressed out of all the races. Certain people in our society have grown to see the black community as an inferior to them. There are many controversies where police are quick to the pull the trigger on black suspects and this shows that racism plays a part in the cause. With the many deaths of innocent black victims, people and people from the Black Lives Matter movement are seeking justice for those who are mistreated. It is a worldwide issue that has affected many people of color and has brought distraught to many communities and families.

Similarly, in the novel When The Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka, the Japanese-Americans were oppressed and put into internment camps and were obligated to express their loyalty by respecting the American ways. From the beginning, racial discrimination has always been against people who immigrated to this country in hopes of achieving the American Dream; however, they were obstructed by the unjustness of the American society. Whether they are an American or a Japanese-American; they are all people of this country. In When The Emperor Was Divine, the author tells a story about the lives of Japanese-American families who were forced into internment camps after the outbreak of World War II. The Japanese-Americans were demonized as not a “real” American because of their race. Although many years have passed, Japanese-American victims till this day are haunted by the government’s actions. In the passage that I had chose, it explains the government questioning the Japanese-Americans if they swore allegiance to the United States of America to determine their loyalty (99).

Otsuka writes, “She’d been in America for almost twenty years now… ‘the nail that sticks up gets hammered down’-- or be labeled disloyal. She did not want to be sent back to Japan... Loyalty. Disloyalty. Allegiance. Obedience. ‘It’s all just words’ ” (99). The woman in the story obeys the law and has internalize the value of what being a good American is. She normalizes the practices of the American culture, however, her efforts of building a new life in America is damaged through racial discrimination. The woman and her family did not express any disloyalty to America, however it was was evident that they were sent to the internment camps due to discrimination. Japanese-American citizens were being torn down because they were mistaken for being the enemy and for also succeeding in building a new life in a foreign country. She conforms to what the Americans define as success in hopes that it will protect her family.

She did not want anything else besides protecting her family so therefore she followed the government’s orders. Because of racial slurs and discrimination,her family and many other Japanese- Americans were forced to give up their “rights” and “freedom” as citizens. This brings to light a certain issue pertaining discrimination towards those of different color and race. In a CNN article written on September 2018, “Colin Kaepernick: A Cultural Star Fast Turning Into A Global Icon,” by Aimee Lewis; Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, caused a controversy for refusing to stand during the National Anthem. His motivation to protest sparked when there were many incidents of police brutality against African-Americans. Many black people in America are dealing with police brutality and are getting mistreated because of their race.

Kaepernick says, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” (CNN). Kaepernick mentions that he is not trying disrespect his country, however he is protesting for what he believes is right for the country. The American principles states that everyone has the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and much more. All individuals have the right and choice to participate or not to participate for the National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance. His decision to take a knee is to stand up for those who are oppressed by their color and race. The media is a huge network in this generation and he used this chance to protest by his action during the National Anthem. He believes that everyone should have equal rights as stated in the Constitution. There needs to be justice in America for the innocent lives that are getting taken away by the cops.

Racism is still a major issue and it appears as if we are now existing as two different societies. When minorities are represented as foreign, that is when exclusion is created. Racism has destroyed many communities and has created a separation in our society. Where the rights and freedom of all people are to be treated fairly, this here is the opposite of equality. From the story, “When The Emperor Was Divine” and the article involving Colin Kaepernick, these two reveal how hypocritical America is towards different races. Stated in the Constitution, to be an American it guarantees rights; everyone is created equal no matter the color of your skin, your race, and culture. Being an American also means being able to freely express yourself. Those who are oppressed have every right to stand up for themselves and to speak up as well. In the novel, the woman felt obligated to pay respect to America by agreeing to the allegiance. She had to obey the government’s order to protect her family.

Although the woman could not seek for justice she had to endure through the government’s schemes. In addition, Japanese-Americans were forced to express their loyalty but they were still oppressed although they were citizens who have been living in America for awhile now. Just like the African-Americans, whom are citizens of America are constantly getting discriminated and getting victimized for the color of their skin. For Colin Kaepernick, he explained that he was not trying to disrespect the country but he felt like it was right to stand up for what he believe was right. Kaepernick used his freedom of expression to silently protest for the African-Americans because he strongly believes that why should people be forced to pledge allegiance to America if America is not doing their part to protect every citizen from racism or from any discrimination. It highlights the unfair racial stereotypes that have taken root in our society.

As a country, America claims that everyone is equal. In our modern society, racial discrimination should still not exist. As a nation that is built on unity and lead by the Constitution, many were never taught what the Pledge of Allegiance truly meant. The Constitution contradicts itself by stating “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” because the people in America are being discriminatory against different people of color, race, and religion. Reciting the pledge is however a choice, but it is socially and culturally expected. Pledging your allegiance should not be forced by expectations, however, people should stand up for their own principles. People are preaching about ending racism but no one has taken action to completely stop it. So what does it mean to be an American?

Being an American does not always mean that should feel obligated to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or stand for the National Anthem. People of this country have set expectations that “everyone” should pay their loyalty to this nation. The Constitution proclaims that everyone has justice, rights, and their own freedom. Therefore, one should not feel obligated to do any of this if they don’t agree with the positions our nation and society have taken. Our country’s problems will not get solved just by sitting down during the Pledge or Anthem, however, by this stance, it makes people aware of these social issues that are currently going on.

Discrimination of race, culture, and color is still happening till this day. Racism reflects those who feel like they are superior to other races that are an inferior to them. People should not be victimized for choosing to express what they believe is right. Everyone has their own principles that they stand up for. Pledging to the allegiance has no meaning if you disagree with it’s principles and what society expects. Others should respect people who freely express their opinion on a social issues. Being an American does not mean living up to everyone’s standards and expectation, but it is that everyone has their own right as a citizen of this country, no matter the color of their skin, their race, religion, and culture. 

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What Does Black Lives Matter Mean To You. (2022, Feb 04). Retrieved April 20, 2024 , from

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