Poetry Out Loud – A Letter To Your Flag


Like many poems entered into this contest, this one was filled with political commentary and disapproval for what is considered the status quo. In “Letter To Your Flag”, spoken by Ronald Vinson, the Pledge of Allegiance is described as both ironic and insulting to the groups of people who have been historically oppressed in the United States. After events such as professional football players kneeling during the National Anthem, more things associated with the United States are being analyzed for themes of racism or ways that they could have excluded groups of people in the past.


The tone for the poem is immediately set in the title “Letter to Your Flag”, which immediately separates the speaker, along with what is assumed to be the African American population in the United States, from the presumably white reader. Vinson immediately paints an image of two Americas. In the first image, America is safe and quiet, with the pledge of allegiance standing for the United State’s great history. Where privilege is overlooked. In the second image, America is a prison where the average African American has to look over his or his shoulder on every block to make sure they are safe. As Vinson puts it: “Please stop saying we’re equal with your flag of red, white, and blue in one hand, you beat us until we’re black and blue with the other, beat us until we’re numb, beat us ‘til we can’t walk straight”. The speaker is not only addressing the problems many African Americans have faced historically, but some of the modern ones that they face as well. The reason why I chose this poem was because this is a major issue facing our nation today. While the United States has certainly progressed in the years prior in terms of civil liberties and how we as a society approach race, we are still a long way from being perfect. Although everyone shares equal liberties, there are still layers of barriers that exist in the form of systematic oppression, whether it be from being born in poverty, abuse from police, or lack of opportunity in education or employment. I feel that these problems that still exist hold back some Americans from living a long and happy life, which seems wrong to me in the “land of opportunity”.


Aside from the message, the poem delivers what is meant to be delivered in a powerful way through repetition. In one part of the poem, the speaker addresses the pressing issue of police brutality in this country by beginning every line in the stanza with “pull the trigger”. By painting a dark picture with line such as “pull the trigger until our bodies lay down on your ground” and “pull the trigger until we make our evening news”, the speaker is giving us a glimpse of the trauma he has faced in his past dealing with the loss of life or the abuse as a result of police brutality. Another way the poem is powerful is through his use of “we” rather than “I”. This changes the speaker from one person to millions of people with one common voice. While there are many poems out there similar to this one, the delivery and issues such as systematic oppression addressed make this one important to hear.


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