Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit 2 Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend (2 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   No comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

The African-American Army

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 1   Supported 1   Valuable 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H3 1/19/13

Become a Fan
  (113 fans)

Escaped slaves fought on the British side, which promised to free them, during the American war for independence for white men.  But nobody liked to talk about that much after the French won the war, although -- come to think of it -- nobody much likes to talk about the French winning the war, or for that matter about the big losers being, not the British but the Native Americans. 

White folks weren't eager to arm slaves, although an NRA-type genius just said on U.S. televisions this week that if slaves had only been armed they wouldn't have been slaves.  The militias famously protected by the Second Amendment included, perhaps primarily, white militias aimed at crushing slave rebellions.  Escaped slaves fought for the Union in the Civil War, which may not have been an insignificant factor in Lincoln's decision to announce their freedom. 

The massacring of Native Americans conditioned black troops as well as white for the brutalities they would inflict in the name of freedom and democracy on the Philippines and Cuba.  Imperial wars abroad brought with them huge surges of violence at home.  During the days in which the United States liberated Filipinos and Cubans from their lives, thousands of lynchings and hundreds of riots brought freedom and liberty to African Americans at home.  While Haitians were occupied, blacks were attacked in Harlem and Alabama. 

African Americans were included in the U.S. military during World War II, in segregated units, and often in non-combat units.  The pretense was that they couldn't fight, never had, never would.  And yet, just as they had before, many did -- with less training, less equipment, and in riskier positions.  And many came to grasp what it all meant.  A jim crow nation that locked up Japanese Americans and rioted against blacks and Mexicans, slaughtered innocent civilians for imperial gain in the name of opposing imperialism.  "Just carve on my tombstone," said an African American soldier in 1942, "here lies a black man who died fighting a yellow man for the protection of the white man."

The draft was segregated.  The military was segregated.  Blacks were largely confined to the support labor that is now hired out to contractors.  When FDR was finally pushed to support blacks' participation in the army, he insisted that they make up no more than 10 percent and be kept in segregated units.  And yet, when African American soldiers in World War II weren't facing the Germans or the Japanese, they were still at great risk of violent assault by white U.S. soldiers, not to mention the abuses they would face back home after their "service."  In Guam, U.S. commanders allowed white troops to prepare for assaults on Japanese troops by abusing African American sailors, including by tossing live grenades at them.

African Americans launched a Double Victory Campaign, whose symbol was two V for victory signs, desiring as they did a victory over fascism abroad and at home.  Some saw through the military madness, understood the connection between violence abroad and at home, and refused to enlist -- or got themselves declared mentally unfit, as Malcolm X did.  Black soldiers resisted, struck, and mutinied.  In April 1945, sixty black officers defied a ban on their use of an officers' club and were arrested.  Another group defied the ban, and they were arrested.  And then another.

Before he integrated baseball, Jackie Robinson refused to move to the back of a bus on Fort Hood. 

A budding movement could be recognized that was also forming within U.S. prisons where black and white conscientious objectors were confronting domestic injustice in new ways.

As black and white troops prepared to return from France, black soldiers had their guns confiscated, while white soldiers guarding German prisoners kept theirs and turned them on the African American troops as well.  Lest you imagine this the hypocrisy of a few bad apples who failed to grasp the great moral purpose of the war, let's not forget that as the victors put the Nazis on trial for crimes including human experimentation, the United States was giving syphilis to Guatemalans to see what would happen, just as it had long been and would long continue studying (and not treating) African Americans with syphilis in Alabama.  In fact, German and Italian troops being held prisoners of war helped white U.S. troops enforce segregation.  And Nazi war criminals found an eager employer in the Pentagon.  Black veterans of World War II were shot and lynched in such numbers in 1946 that a Chicago Defender columnist wrote that "the Negro press still reads like war."

Returning black troops faced "jim crow shock," when they imagined they'd just killed and risked dying for freedom but got home to find none.  Some were more equal than others under the G.I. Bill and within U.S. society.  Compared to the mythical "spitting on the troops" after the Vietnam War or the lack of interest or awareness during the -- yes -- still ongoing endless war on everywhere that started in 2001, this was a heavy blow.  It led to suicides and violence of all variety. 

It did not lead to complete rejection of the military and military "service."  For African Americans disproportionately, the military was the best available means of obtaining a paycheck or any sort of skilled employment, as well as a way to prove one's manhood and the right to citizenship.  Discrimination within the military, rather than the existence of the military and its draining impact on other possible pursuits and investments, was enemy number one.  Everything currently said about gays or women in the military was said about blacks in the military, and -- as in the newer controversies -- even those claiming to oppose militarism prioritized equal access to participate fully in it.

In 1948, A. Phillip Randolph warned,

"I would like to make clear to the Senate Armed Services Committee and through you, to Congress and the American people that passage now of a Jim Crow draft may only result in a mass civil disobedience movement along the lines of the magnificent struggles of the people of India against British imperialism." 

Senator Wayne Morse -- remembered, when he is remembered, as an opponent of the war on Vietnam -- charged Randolph with treason.

Truman announced an integrated military, with an executive order, much as Obama closed Guantanamo.  Blacks joined up in 1948 and 1949, mainly for the money, expecting an integrated military but finding a completely segregated one.  Even brothels providing sex slaves to soldiers in Japan were segregated for black and white. 

Next Page  1  |  2

 

http://davidswanson.org

David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): ; , Add Tags

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Feith Dares Obama to Enforce the Law

Obama's Open Forum Opens Possibilities

Public Forum Planned on Vermont Proposal to Arrest Bush and Cheney

Did Bush Sr. Kill Kennedy and Frame Nixon?

Holder Asked to Prosecute Blankenship

Eleven Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
No comments