By Greg Boudonck
Discrimination… It is something that many people believe we are overcoming.
After all, people like Michael Jackson wrote songs that brought colors together and it does seem that discrimination is not nearly as prevalent as in years past.
But does that hold true for the United States military?
Before I move on with this article, I must tell readers that I am going to step into a controversial subject.
I am apt to throw my opinions into this article even though I am going to attempt to stay neutral but in a subject such as this, I have my doubts I will be able to hold a neutral stance for very long.
I do want to tell you that Part Time Commander and its owner are not any part of this stance I take.
The website is just a medium for my expression, and they have no part in the expressions I am making.
Let’s first take a look at history of discrimination in the United States military
When we research and study the multitudes of documents on discrimination and racism in the U.S. military, there is a plethora of material, but it mainly looks at the plights of African Americans.
While I by no means am trying to take away from that fact that out black citizens were discriminated against, I do want to point out that by no means were they the only people to be discriminated against.
If we really look closely, people of many cultures and nationalities who had become United States citizens did face discrimination in the United States military.
Some other groups that faced discrimination were:
- Native Americans
- Mexican Americans
- Japanese Americans
- Chinese Americans
- Irish Americans
- Puerto Ricans
- Jewish Americans
And for the kicker that I will explain further in… Caucasian Americans.
So let’s move through the time-line:
1500’s to 1774 The Colonial Period
During this period, we found that our country was a mix, but primarily a white mix.
Indians, Mulattos and those of African descent were on the outside of the circle, but when it came to defending the colonies, up until the early 1600’s, and man who could carry a gun was enticed to belong to a local militia.
While the majority of Indians were enemies at that time, there were a few who were friendly and were welcome to fight as allies.
Africans were slaves but were given the ability to fight as defenders too.
But fear took hold of slave owners as blacks began to up rise against owners. Many colonies enacted laws that would not allow a slave to carry a gun.
Many militia laws were adapted to any given area and time period.
If someone would not serve in the militia, small fines were instituted.
So naturally, when militia numbers dropped below acceptable levels, recruitment of Indians, Mulattos and some Africans was instituted.
1775 to 1783 The Revolution
At the start of the Revolution, the Continental Army would not accept any “negros” according to Adjutant General Horatio Gates.
But many people in the colonies were firmly against revolt against the British.
The British also enticed the black population to fight on their side.
Shortly, General George Washington saw the need for the African fighters and reversed that rule.
But discrimination was evident.
No black soldier ever rose above Private, and they were known as negro, or surnames associated with the blacks in the early years of the war.
But as the war rolled on, slave owners began giving their slaves to the effort and there were actually companies of black soldiers led by a black commander.
Some of these black fighters fought brilliantly, but were re-enslaved after the war.
The majority of Indians supported the British which caused an even deeper hatred for them at war’s end.
Many colonists claimed that Indians now had no rights to any land.
After the Militia Act of 1792, it was deemed the only people who could serve would be free, white and 18 to 45 years old.
The Marine Corps abided by that completely until 1942.
1812 to 1815 War of 1812
Here is when we saw military discrimination in a huge way.
General and future President Andrew Jackson offered slaves freedom if the fought and free black men were offered 160 acres of land and the same pay as white men.
When it was over, Jackson took it all back.
The Civil War
When blacks were allowed to fight for the Union, they were always led by a white commander.
Blacks were used as labor primarily in the confederacy.
Indians and Mexicans fought on both sides, but treatment was harsh and anyone who wasn’t white had greater odds of being killed because they were given the weakest weapons and were treated as second rate.
Mid To Late 1800’s-The Indian Campaigns
During this period, trust was difficult.
Discrimination and prejudice was “normal.”
Many Army leaders would not accept blacks in their companies.
Usually, Army leaders would not be promoted because of it, but they would accept that.
A good example was George Custer.
When offered black soldiers, Custer used some derogatory terms and would not accept them.
We wonder how the battle where he was killed would have turned out if he would have had those extra men.
Some black men attended West Point and were commissioned, but they had to endure racial slurs and mistreatment.
The Spanish American War
The War Department felt that black soldiers would be well suited to fight in the Caribbean.
But they were mistreated like usual.
Other posts you may enjoy:
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- Facts About The Women’s Army Corps Service Medal
- Debate: Should Citizenship Have to be Earned Via Military Service?
- Debate: Women Serving in Combat Arms
And Moving Further
As we moved into World War I and World War II, soldiers of various ethnicity were accepted but segregated.
The skin color determined what unit they would serve in.
Blacks were with blacks and Latins with Latins, but in most cases, they had Anglo Commanders and leaders.
Many would also claim that these groups were given the most dangerous missions.
While discrimination was not supposed to be, it was still evident.
And who exactly would do anything about it?
We moved into Korea, Vietnam and several other smaller conflicts.
Women began to become involved which created a new issue, but I believe it took some of the discrimination away from the other groups.
We then came to a position where homosexuals felt they needed their place and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” system came into play.
In many ways the military was trying to combat against discrimination at every level, and also trying to combat enemies of the United States.
I had the opportunity to interview a Marine who served in Vietnam.
He described low level discrimination which I believe is something anyone faced if they were different.
This is where I go beck to something I stated earlier; even white people are sometimes discriminated against.
You have a bigger nose or curly hair, you may be different.
My last name, Boudonck garnered hateful and rude comments.
So is there discrimination in the military now?
I have read many articles pointing out that we have a high percentage of African American and Latin soldiers, but not an equal percentage in leadership positions.
I tend to agree with the “Brass.”
They claim that these soldiers are choosing MOS’ that have an overload of leaders.
It is combat units that need leaders, but these soldiers are going into non-combat units.
It isn’t discrimination, it is numbers.
But there STILL IS prejudice and discrimination in the military.
There always will be.
When you have humans and one human is not like the other, there can, and will be prejudice.
That is life and we must face it.
My View On Affirmative Action
There has been a push to add equal numbers in the military in leadership.
I have watched corporations institute similar policies and to be blunt…They suck!
When a person is promoted just because of their nationality and not because of their achievements, the system creates a new hatred.
As an example, you have Frank who is an African American who has has had some brushes with regulations and has been below average on APFT exams.
You have Dave who is white and has excellent numbers and has the best abilities in the role that is open.
But Affirmative Action states there needs to be an African American in the position, so they promote the less qualified Frank because of his skin color.
Now I am not picking out just African Americans here; this is the case with women and other minorities.
I believe the promotions should never be based on anything but qualifications.
I watched where a certain individual at a corporation I worked for was a minority.
He missed work, no call, no show for 3 days.
They gave him his job back and 1 month later he was promoted to shift supervisor.
During that same period, a Caucasian man was late to work 2 days (car issues).
He was fired and could not get his job back.
He was a hard worker and never complained.
I watched as underlying prejudice built throughout the corporation.
White workers who were under the new shift supervisor began to do their work at bare minimum.
The system had created a monster.
Affirmative Action does not work!
Do I have the answer?
I will say that if any military leader is “caught” using discriminatory practices, they need to be removed immediately.
This goes for any.
Because even minorities do discriminate against majorities at times too.
We will never completely rid prejudice and discrimination.
But if certain individuals who show that they have those tendencies are put into positions of working with or for the people they are prejudice against, they may learn that there is a different side.
So what do you think?
Do you believe that discrimination is rampant in the military?
How do you think it should be attacked?
Please post your views below.
Again I must say, I was not trying to attack any certain group in this post.
Part Time Commander does not have any part in the views I am expressing here.
If you have any issues with what I wrote, just remember it is me and you should confront me and not the medium I am using to express these views.