- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

Readers pledge little allegiance to Henri Brooks

Tennessee state Rep. Henri Brooks just doesnt have a clue. Does she know just who is disrespected by her refusal to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag ("Black leaders refuse to pledge allegiance to flag," June 22.
Does she not know who Crispus Attucks was? Born a slave, Attucks ran away when his master refused to let him buy his freedom. Twenty years later, he resurfaced in Boston..
According to eyewitness accounts, it was Attucks who shaped and dominated action on March 5, 1770, when the first American martyrs of the American Revolution died in the Boston Massacre. During a confrontation with British soldiers, Attucks stepped forward, almost leaning into a bayonet. "Dont be afraid, they dare not fire," he encouraged the crowd. Attucks rallied them to stand their ground. Responding to his leadership, the people stood firm. When a thrown stick struck British Pvt. Hugh Montgomery, he fired his weapon, killing Attucks..
The next day, Attucks body was taken to Faneuil Hall, and two days later, all businesses were closed for his and the other victims funeral. The funeral was attended by the largest crowd known to have assembled in North America.
John Adams said, "On that night the foundation of American Independence was laid."
Perhaps Ms. Brooks never learned of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Fighting not only the Nazi Luftwaffe but also segregation and racism of the military leadership, these brave men flew 1,553 sorties and completed 1,578 missions with the 12th Tactical U.S. Army Air Force and the 15th Strategic Army Air Forces. They were called the "Schwartze volelmenschen" (Black Birdmen) by the Germans who both feared and respected them. White American bomber crews reverently referred to them as "The Redtail Angels" because of the identifying red paint on their aircraft nose and tail assemblies and because of their reputation for not losing bombers to enemy fighters as they provided fighter escort over strategic targets in Europe.
The airmen lost not one friendly bomber to enemy aircraft attack during 200 escort missions. This success was unique because no other fighter unit with nearly as many missions could make the same claim.
Sixty-six of these pilots were killed in aircraft accidents or in aerial combat while another 32 were shot down and captured as prisoners of war. They destroyed or damaged more than 409 German aircraft, (111 in the air) and more than 950 units of ground transportation. Gwynn Pierson, leading a flight of four P-47s sank a destroyer with machine-gun fire, which was a distinctive achievement.
On March 24, 1945, Roscoe C. Brown Jr., Charles Brantly and Earl Lane, each shot down a German ME-262 jet fighter aircraft, the first jet fighters the world had ever seen.
The airmen came home with 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Legion of Merit, 744 Air Medals, eight Purple Hearts, two Soldiers Medals, 14 Bronze Stars and a Red Star of Yugoslavia. Owing to the prejudices of the times, I am sure more medals should have been awarded these gallant warriors. But they endured and overcame to write their names large in our national heritage.
I am white, rural, Southern and conservative. I was raised on tales of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stewart. By the simple act of reading a few books I added Attucks and the Tuskegee Airmen to my list of American heroes. I am proud to share a nation and heritage with the likes of those men.
Quoting Ms. Brooks in The Washington Times: "When I try to give my side … it seems like it always comes out wrong. For this to be blown to the proportion it has been, its just taken me aback."
If it always comes out wrong … then perhaps Ms. Brooks, and not the rest of our country, is wrong.

Appomattox, Va.

Ms. Brooks is not the first person I have heard about who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I have heard of other instances where children in public schools refused to say the pledge.
When analyzing the content of the pledge, I find it to be a document that sets goals for us to achieve. Saying the pledge on a regular basis serves as a reminder of those goals. Asking our young people to say the pledge at the beginning of their day in school serves to inculcate in our young people what we as a unified people must work toward.
I have seen Ms. Brooks interviewed on talk shows and heard her arguments. We cannot turn back the clock and reverse the sad experiences the blacks in this country have had. And, yes, she has a right of freedom of speech, or no speech, with respect to not say the pledge, as guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
If the pledge is that repulsive to Ms. Brooks and others, then to what set of goals should we as a unified people aspire to? She provides no alternatives, only criticism. But if she has trouble with "liberty and justice for all," then I shudder to think what suggestions she would provide.

Catonsville, Md.

With regard to Robert Stacy McCains article, "Black leaders refuse to pledge allegiance to flag." as I recall, around 640, 000 Union soldiers were killed, wounded or disabled in the Civil War … overall economic cost to the Union of that war was around $6.1 billion … the Emancipation Proclamation was issued (and the president assassinated for his trouble) … something like 4 million slaves were freed … and the South was left in economic ruin … all under the flag which this lady and her associates characterize as a symbol of slavery and racial oppression.

Cedar Park, Texas

Regarding the news story "Black leaders refuse to pledge allegiance to flag," your headline appears bombastic and misleading. The story is about one black "leader," actually a heretofore unknown state lawmaker, who refuses to cite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Others may support her on First Amendment grounds (the American Civil Liberties Union who are not black leaders), or logical grounds (Julianne Malveaux and Lawrence Guyot), but this is not a pact made by any group of prominent black leaders as your headline intimates.
I understand your presentation of the headline is a device to get people to actually read the article, and it provides red-meat for your regular customers, but I just wonder if it is responsible journalism.


I was rather taken back by Ms. Brooks comments on the American flag ("This flag represents the former colonies that enslaved our ancestors") and Pledge of Allegiance ("Its not one nation under God and its not liberty and justice for all"). Yes, I will agree that the flag flew when the colonies had slaves, but when our country divided over the issue of slaves, that flag (Stars and Stripes) became the true symbol of freedom. Look at the military history of the Civil War, the majority of those who served were white men fighting for the freedom of black men. Oh, yes, there were women who also fought, but I said the majority. I wanted to clarify that before anyone wanted to blow me off because they deemed that I was a sexist white male.
I will be the first to agree that our history is replete with mistakes and injustices for all, but what country is without its errors. England? Better study the genocide of the Irish people, the raping of Scotland, the enslavement of their colonies like India. France? Gee, ever hear of French Indochina? How about the continent of Africa? Surely there is peace and tranquility there since the colonialists have been purged? Oops, I forgot about the 500,000-plus who died in Rwanda because they were from the wrong tribe.
A significant number of people in this country had ancestors who were either slaves or soldiers fighting for the freedom of the slaves, and there were also black soldiers who fought under the Stars and Stripes for their freedom. Many of us lost our ancestors for the cause of liberty and justice for all, and Id hate to think that we are forgetting about their noble sacrifice.
I do not know Ms. Brooks personally, therefore I do not know how well traveled she is. I do know that I have spent extensive time in Latin America, Southeast and Southwest Asia, Europe and Africa, and I can say that Americans have far more freedoms and liberty than the majority of the worlds citizens. I can assure you that Ms. Brooks would have been imprisoned or executed for her comments had she made them in some of the countries that I have worked in.
Yes, our past is tainted, but that is why we study history … so we do not repeat our errors. I am not writing to defend our colonial history because it is indefensible. I dare anyone to defend the idea of slavery. But I do feel that we need to assess our definition of liberty, because I see it as having the freedom to voice dissenting views or making changes in our society.
So what is the bottom line? Maybe Ms. Brooks should look at the positive merits of these symbols and work toward making them a reality instead of refusing to stand and pledge the flag. I know that as a former high school teacher I have. I used history books as guides, but I taught my students about our countrys darker side because I wanted to destroy prejudice and ignorance. I worked diligently to explain why the civil rights movement was a just cause because black Americans did not enjoy freedom for all 100 years after the Civil War. And my students all stood for the flag and recited the Pledge of Allegiance in honor of those who have sacrificed their lives and those who are still fighting to make "liberty and justice for all" a reality.

Northumberland, Pa.

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