This morning I wanna highlight two young leaders who stories are connected not just because of their refusal to go along with the status quo, but because of the consequences they faced as  a result.

As you may have heard, earlier this month @ Lawton Chiles Middle School in Lakeland, Florida, an 11 year old black boy was literally arrested and sent to jail after his principled refusal to stand up for the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

I don’t think the ugliness and complexity of this story has gotten nearly the coverage it deserves. This young boy is a hero. Do you know how much courage it takes to go against the grain like he did – particularly in a school environment like that?

While we are just now hearing about it, the boy was actually arrested all the way back on February 4th, a full two weeks ago. He is, thankfully, out of jail and with his mother, but they actually are scheduled to go to court, before a judge, as early as this morning.

Let me break a few issues down – because this school district is trying to defend their decision to have this young boy arrested – and that’s a fight they are going to lose.

First, this young king was well within his constitutional rights, and within the rules of this public school, to refuse to stand for the pledge. Our schools shouldn’t even be in the business of having children pledge their allegiance to this nation anyway. It’s a gross level of indoctrination, but this young boy, unlike most adults, had clearly though through the pledge and decided he didn’t want anything to do with it.

According to witnesses in the classroom, when he refused to stand, the teacher confronted him, telling him he had to stand. The boy then made it clear that he didn’t – and that he understood the racism of the United States, and of our national anthem, and that he wasn’t going to participate – and what happened next is what burned me up.

This teacher went straight to the white supremacist handbook and then told this 11 year old student that he should go back to Africa. The teacher doesn’t even deny it. She literally told him that if he didn’t like this country that he should go back to Africa. Ask yourself this, why is it that when conservative white people were frustrated with this country for 8 years during the Obama administration that nobody was telling them to go back to Europe? It seems to me that everybody else is allowed to be fully frustrated with this nation, and stay here and be frustrated, but when we express our frustration, we are told to go back to Africa.

At the point in which this school teacher said what she said, if anybody should’ve been arrested, it was her, not the boy, for being a disturbance, but it’s Florida, and Florida is always going to do what Florida always does – so she called the front office to have the boy removed from class by an actual police officer.

I have sympathy for this boy, because for my whole life I was removed from classrooms by teachers – I think I started being sent to the hallway as early as 1st grade and happened all the way until I was in high school, but in the 1980s and 90s, they weren’t arresting you and sending you to jail for a disagreement with a teacher. And it’s outrageous that they are doing this today. Absolutely outrageous. It’s a sign of how much the prison industrial complex has grown that schools are no longer taking kids to the office, or calling their parents, but basically sending them straight to jail. At the age of 11 no less.

Thankfully, the ACLU and NAACP and other organizations are standing with this boy and his family and are making sure he has the right representation.

I want to close this morning by talking about two men who also demanded that this country be better and do better – I’m talking about Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid. As has already been discussed here on the show, late last week the NFL settled their collusion lawsuit with both men. And I want to acknowledge both men, because while the headlines have mainly been about Colin Kaepernick, both men sued the NFL, which was so amazingly courageous. and the NFL settled their lawsuit with both men. Eric Reid also just signed a 3 year extension with the Carolina Panthers – and Colin Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, is hopeful that closure in this lawsuit will mean that a team will actually sign Colin when free agency begins.

I’m only speaking for myself here – while I am grateful that the NFL has compensated these men for the wrong that they did to them, as long as Colin is effectively banned from the league, and not even given a chance to try out for a team, which is outrageous, I’m still not watching. Last season over 100 quarterbacks were signed to NFL rosters – many of them were men that never even got drafted, never won an NFL game, never threw a touchdown – some of them that were signed have had horrible careers – were older and more beat up than Colin – and still got signed.

I’ll close with this. I’m so thankful for Colin, for Eric Reid, and for that bold 11 year old boy. This nation can try to make out like they hate the United States – but I see them as patriots – fighting to hold this nation to account – demanding that it actually be more than empty words.


Shaun King: ‘I’m So Thankful For Colin, For Eric Reid’  was originally published on