Standing For a Cause, Sitting For the Pledge
Several Student Association members have been standing for social justice by sitting down for the pledge of allegiance at weekly senate meetings.
Since the legislative session began, the number of SA members remaining seated during the pledge at meetings has reached a historical high as three students protest racial injustice across the country.
Unlike some activists who started protesting the recital in response to NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stance against the national anthem in August, SA protesters reportedly refused the pledge in years past.
After being elected this semester, Chloe Blaise, Dutch Quad senator, brought years of protesting the recital out of discontent with racial profiling to the senate.
“It’s all about Black Lives Matter … every part of it,” Blaise said. “I was Kaepernick before Kaepernick knew he was Kaepernick, so I’ve been doing this for awhile.”
At her first meeting, Blaise spoke with Chloe Sumner, the director of SA’s Gender and Sexuality Concerns, about starting a collective effort to protest the pledge in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Prior to this session, Sumner stood for the pledge at meetings, but stayed silent out of protest.
“As an African-American woman, I feel uncomfortable standing for the pledge anymore with everything that is going on,” Sumner said. “And my hope in doing [this] is that somebody does eventually wonder why I am doing it.”
Up until this session, Melissa Mosby, senator-at-large and chair of the constituent relations committee, also stood for the pledge at SA meetings despite carrying a history of objecting to the recital in high school.
Trying to avoid political fallout while being new to the senate two years ago, Mosby avoided sitting down for the pledge, but remained silent and sat down before the pledge ended. No longer looking for acceptance in her last term this year, Mosby turned back to sitting down.
“Nobody has ever told me that they didn’t approve of it, but people definitely look at you differently when you don’t stand for the pledge,” Mosby said.
Within Mosby’s past terms, SA members have advocated against racial disparity on campus. SA members have acted in rallies supporting social justice, following events such as the death of Donald Ivy by Albany police in April 2015.
Yet, the act of SA members refusing to stand for the pledge during senate meetings has not been prevalent in recent history, according to Connor Dunleavy, the longest standing member of the senate.
In some corners of the senate, members including SA President Felix Abreu have noticed the act but have been unsure about its message.
Meanwhile, senators such as Mark Anthony-Quinn, Colonial Quad senator, have never noticed SA members sitting down during the pledge. While being unfamiliar with the act, Anthony-Quinn mentioned that he supports Black Lives Matter but is uncertain about the effectiveness of protesting the pledge.
“As far as doing something along the lines of what Colin Kaepernick did, I don’t know if that would be the best way of doing it,” he said.
Similarly, Josh Sadigh, State Quad senator, did not notice any students sitting down for the pledge until the Oct. 19 senate meeting. He considers the act offensive towards the military, but also regards it as a necessary form of expression.
“Personally I think it’s really disrespectful, but it’s freedom of speech and they’re allowed to do it,” Sadigh said.
Since Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in August, there have been several incidents of students from California to Illinois being threatened for refusing to stand for the pledge. So far, SA protesters have not had any pushback.
Brian Polanco, senator-at-large, believes the stance should be able to continue without controversy.
“I personally don’t find it disrespectful because it’s just a form of expression,” Polanco said. “Therefore they should be able to express themselves in any way they see is fit.”