Tense conversations about race have been reignited at Santa Barbara City College after a former educator of the college asked the Board of Trustees to reinstate saying the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings.
The pledge was originally removed from the meetings because the board’s president said it has ties to anti-immigrant roots.
On Wednesday, the pledge was re-instated but some minority students are now fearful of what may come next.
For former Santa Barbara City College educator Celeste Barber, the Pledge of Allegiance is more than just a symbol of the country.
“One nation, under God, indivisible – what does that mean? You can’t divide us. We are one people. So I was shocked,” Barber said. “People from all over the world, they love their countries, but there’s something special and unique about being American. When you go to a foreign land and you see your flag there, it’s precious to us, it stirs us.”
So when that was taken away from Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees meetings in July, Barber decided to ask the board to reconsider.
She says the board’s president, Robert Miller, sent her an email which reads in part, “Expressions for support of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1890 sound eerily similar to the ugly, racist, anti-immigrant expressions we hear today.”
“Our country does have roots in slavery but that was the past and one of the great things about the United States is we have evolved as a people. We are the most diverse, open country in the entire world,” Barber said.
So she decided to voice her opinion at the Board of Trustees meeting last week.
Protesters were already at the meeting over the reinstatement of the school’s Vice President of Business Affairs, who allegedly used the “n-word” in a public meeting.
A campus advocate for minority students, who asked to remain anonymous, says since Barber’s plea for the pledge has received national attention, educators are now making plans to ensure those students are safe.
“I want to challenge people in this community about their nativism, about their xenophobia and remind them that the minority veterans on this campus and their families have sacrificed much more for a lot less,” the student said.
Santa Barbara City College has decided to reinstate the pledge telling KSBY in a statement, “While the college recognizes that there are different opinions about the Pledge of Allegiance, it expects that the First Amendment rights of members of the public to comment at board meetings will be respected. It is inconsistent with those rights for other audience members to interrupt and mock speakers on this topic, as happened at the January 24th board meeting. “