SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The next time you go to a Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees meeting, the Pledge of Allegiance will be on the agenda.
The board voted unanimously Thursday night to place their hands over their hearts and salute the red, white and blue after a hotly contested debate the garnered national attention.
Dating back to 1959, the pledge was not included at meetings. It wasn’t until a local resident requested that it be recited last summer, so the Pledge of Allegiance was added to the agenda in July of 2018.
In early January, Board President Robert Miller made the decision to discontinue the practice, citing what is believed to be a connection between the pledge and white nationalism and racism. After protests and heated debate it was temporarily reinstated on January 29th.
However, Santa Barbara City College’s Board of Trustees Valentine’s Day meeting began with the very act that’s been under scrutiny as a packed auditorium at the Wake Center rose to their feet.
The meeting had to be moved to the alternative location to accommodate the large crowd.
After weeks of contention and back and forth, the Pledge of Allegiance has been permanently reinstated.
“The agenda of the Governing Board of Santa Barbara City College District will include recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance unless and until a majority of the board determine otherwise,” said SBCC Board of Trustees President Robert Miller.
Over 60 people took to the podium to devote their patriotism.
“My fellow veterans and I are committed and risked our lives to defend this flag and what it stands for,” said a Naval Academy grad and Vietnam combat veteran.
“I personally immigrated to this country years ago and became a United States Citizen,” said one woman.
“We live in a society where the word racist is used to describe everything,” said Grace Wallace, a Goleta woman draped in an American flag.
Tense moments erupted during the nearly three hours of public comment.
An African American woman was not allowed to speak after another speaker wanted to yield time to her, causing a heated back and forth with a small sector in the crowd chanting “let her speak.”
Some in attendance say the so-called pledge controversy is a distraction from a larger issue at SBCC.
“It was shocking how many people who just stood here and professed their devotion to the words liberty and justice for all are perfectly happy to see that not apply to people of color,” said an SBCC educator.
Several board members expressed their disappointment with their colleagues and community after racial slurs were used, vowing to address systematic racism at Santa Barbara City College.
“The last speaker in the previous session, before the recess said the N-word in a derogatory manner and I didn’t hear a single person who came up here and spouts how great America was, justice for all, didn’t say a thing and only two board members did,” said SBCC Board of Trustees member Jonathan Abbou.
Abboud said he would vote for the resolution under the condition that he be able to add the word “someday” after “liberty and justice for all.”
The Interim Student Trustee made it clear that students did not ask for the Pledge of Allegiance to be stated or removed, highlighting other pressing issues like homelessness and food insecurity as bigger priorities.