By Anna Bondi
During National Foreign Language Week, Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, New York decided to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in various languages, including Arabic, to support diversity in the school. In direct contrast, it sent a ripple effect through the community and outraged many residents who believed this was offensive during a time of war and terrorism.
What these residents don’t necessarily understand is that the Arabic language is spoken in 26 countries and has about 280,000,000 native speakers, according to figures from the Nations Online Project. It is a language spoken by Muslims as well as people of many other faiths throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.
However, instead of broadening their understanding on the issue, Pine Bush residents made the following comments to CBS2 on the matter: “I was just like ‘are you kidding me?’ That’s so disrespectful,” and “I think it should be spoken in English. This is America.”
What I find disrespectful, however, is to disregard an entire language based on a violent minority. Secondly, America is a melting pot of cultures where many languages are spoken such as Spanish, French, Chinese, Tagalong, and yes, Arabic. To say that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic is immoral, disrespectful, and is in fact, racist.
Even though the residents of Pine Bush have a right to be sensitive on the issue of terrorism, especially since some may have lost family and friends in the War on Terrorism, it still does not give them the right to be racist against an entire ethnicity.
As the LA Times relays, “National Foreign Language Week was meant to ‘promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country.”
The senior class president of Pine Bush High School, Andrew Zink, told the LA Times he allowed a classmate to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic to support equality of all people in the spirit of the week. He did so because he felt like it was the right thing to do and he wanted to create dialogue about diversity.
Unfortunately, the effect was quite the opposite. When he and his fellow classmate did the morning announcements, they were personally attacked. In an interview with the LA Times, he explained: “The anti-Muslim sentiment started to build. The poor girl who read it, she’s so sweet and when she finished reading it people called her a terrorist. They told her to go back to the Middle East. They mercilessly degraded her and I felt awful for her…Some people said they didn’t want to look at me ever again.”
The lack of understanding that this community used to quell the class president and his fellow classmate’s attempt at promoting equality is not an example Americans want to be known for in the future. As American citizens, we must stop bigotry and start a dialogue about the equality of all people, no matter how difficult it may be. We must join together as Americans, and promote freedom and equality for all.
As class president Zink tweeted, “To everyone who disagrees with my decisions, I respect your right to do so and hope we can have a productive conversation. Goodnight PB [Pine Bush].”