Not knowin’ if I’m comin’ home or not/And if I do, I’ll probably be shell shocked/I couldn’t get a job just a free burial/You know how Uncle Sam treat it’s veterans/Absolutely no respect/Get a plate in your head, lose a leg, you might get a check/Or a gaddamn star/you can have that shit/Mother fuck a war! – Bushwick Bill, The Geto Boys “Fuck A War”, 1991
African-Americans have fought and contributed in every major the United States has fought over the past 200 years.
As of April 2015, African-Americans make up almost 17.8% of all service members. However, as we see with the educational and financial institutions in the United States, they are facing racial prejudice while serving in the military and when they come home to government jobs.
One of the major topics for every Presidential candidate has been the treatment of America’s veterans. In addition to poor healthcare, United States veterans face a number of complicated issues when they return home from war. Getting treatment for mental issues like PTSD or physical disabilities sustained while on active duty has hindered thousands of America’s vets.
In fact, at last count there were over 50,000 homeless veterans on the streets of America on any given night. And over 40% of them are African-American or Hispanic.
So it is even harder for African-American veterans thanks to good old American racism. Thousands of African-American men and women serve their country, yet still face discrimination when they return home to work for the Federal government.
|C4C’s video about the plight of Black veterans|
Now a group of frustrated African-American veterans are doing something about it.
The Coalition For Change (C4C) recently produced a series of public service announcements to shed light on the plight of African-American veterans. A new PSA titled “Black Lives Matter: Black Veterans Under Siege in the Federal Government” allege that some U.S. Federal agency managers are subjecting servicemen and women to extreme abuse when they come home from war.
For example, veteran Dennis Turner was forced to file a class action lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons before he retired in 2008.
“Dealing with rampant workplace retaliation as an employee of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons, still remains one of the most difficult things I have experienced,” said Turner.
The way war hero Lieutenant Commander J. Gregory Richardson was treated when he returned home is just as shameful. Richardson, who received a commendation medal for helping to thwart a terrorist attack at Fujairah International Airport in Saudi Arabia, was forced to file a discrimination lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection.
“Despite extensive documentation of my medical condition they chose to fire me in 2014 after I reported discrimination,” Richardson said.
Since then, Lieutenant Richardson has suffered financial hardships to pay a lawyer to sue his racist supervisors at Customs and Border Protection.
|Thomas McDonald’s new book details the racism he experienced in the military|
The way African-Americans are discriminated against in the U.S. Armed Forces is also the subject of a new book titled “I’m Tellin'” that hit bookstores last month.
In it, author Thomas McDonald shares stories of discrimination and perseverance and his struggle as an African-American in the military, which was similar to the experience of his father, who also served the country in Vietnam.
“Fighting an ageless race war within a war, but not choosing sides is too much for anyone to bear,” said McDonald. “All I wanted was to have my own military stories to share with my dad (Vietnam veteran), and to increase our bond. I didn’t think I would be too black to serve, and not black enough to fit in which mirrored his experience. I’ve had friends from both races end their lives because of it. If nothing is done, this cycle will never be broken. My mind and life is forever altered.”
The institutionalized discrimination in the armed services even threatens the United States’ ability to defend its position in the global theater of war. It will ultimately have an impact on homeland security.
For instance, African-American’s are almost non-existent in the Elite Forces of the armed services, In fact, there’s only 8 Blacks out of the 753 SEAL officers, according to data released by Pentagon over the summer.
That’s a paltry 1.8%,
“We don’t know where we will find ourselves in the future,” Army Col. Michael Copenhaver told the USA Today. “One thing is for sure: We will find ourselves around the globe. And around the globe you have different cultural backgrounds everywhere. Having that kind of a diverse force can only increase your operational capability.”
Tanya Ward Jordan, President of C4C, called upon the public to pay more attention to the issues of African-American veterans in the United States. The way these veterans are treated could offer greater insight into what to expect from the government.
“Their accounts offer critical insight into government’s ability to fairly administer Federal programs and services to the Black community-at-large,” Tanya Ward Jordan said.