“I am a black Mississippian. I am a black American. I pledge to never be passive, patriotic, or grateful in the face of American abuse. I pledge to always thoughtfully bite the self-righteous American hand that thinks it’s feeding us. I pledge to perpetually reckon with the possibility that there will never be any liberty, peace, and justice for all unless we accept that America, like Mississippi, is not clean. Nor is it great. Nor is it innocent.” (Laymon)
Within the essay “What I Pledge Allegiance To” by Kiese Laymon, I found many aspects of myself within the work itself. Mr. Laymon tells of his thoughts on the ragged American flag he has hung outside his home in Oxford, Mississippi. The essay follows the timeline of Mr. Laymon being a resident in upstate New York, and a resident in Jackson, Mississippi. The ways in which he describes living in New York as a black American and how he differentiates, and in a way, minimizes, the classification of living in Mississippi as simply a black Mississippian is not only interesting but also in many aspects relatable to many other black Mississippians. Mr. Laymon also speaks on the completely different worries of black Mississippians as appose to other black Americans. These few highlights, however, do not nearly scratch the surface of the amount of material that Mr. Laymon discusses with his essay, but these are points that stuck out to me greatly as a reader from Jackson, Mississippi.
As I read this work, I felt the wording from Mr. Laymon on his thoughts and emotions was done with great eloquence. Although his speech within the article itself is informal, the message was a very sensitive topic to write on, and could have very well come off to readers as more of an attack at Americans as appose to Mr. Laymon’s personal beliefs, but Mr. Laymon did a very impressive job at avoiding wording that would seem offensive or brash. I believe that I and Mr. Laymon have very common viewpoints on the Pledge of Allegiance when it comes to the topic of if we support it or not. I commend the altercations and inclusion of Mr. Laymon’s own personal “allegiance” to himself that he ended his essay with, which I included at the beginning of this review. I personally believe this essay had a lot of great detailing and imagery; however, I do believe there were a few missed opportunities in the writing.
In a section of the writing, Mr. Laymon speaks on why he will not remove the flag from his yard out of fear, but I believe that moment would have been a great opportunity to include a hypothetical scenario regarding him and his neighbors, or the actions that may follow if he took the flag down; however, the ambiguous text of not telling what may happen leaves it up to the imagination of the readers. Overall, I highly recommend this essay as a good read for many Americans, especially African American Mississippians. If you would like to read this essay, please click here.