[Marxism] Black community votes with its feet

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 22 09:00:43 MDT 2007


NY Times, August 22, 2007
Iraq War Brings Drop in Black Enlistees
By SARAH ABRUZZESE

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 — Joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps was 
once an attractive choice for people with few options growing up in 
impoverished, predominantly black East Baltimore. That has all changed, 
largely because of the war in Iraq.

“Now, it is like, no way,” said Cornelius McMurray, who does outreach 
with a local church and says the young black people he works with view 
life in Baltimore as enough of a war. “It is a continuous fight waking 
up and walking the streets every day.”

In the Bronx, Adeyefa Finch says he simply walks past the recruiters 
who, seeking out minority members along Fordham Road, make the case that 
the military can help with college financing and job placement after 
they serve. “I’m not really into going overseas with guns and fighting 
other people’s wars,” said Mr. Finch, 18, headed to college this fall to 
study accounting.

That kind of rejection of military service as an option of young blacks 
throughout the country has resulted in a sharp drop in black recruitment 
figures since the war began. Defense Department reports show that the 
share of blacks among active-duty recruits declined to 13 percent in 
2006 from 20 percent in 2001, the last year before the invasion of Iraq 
began to seem inevitable.

And while blacks continue to account for a larger share of the existing 
troop level than their share of the general population, as has been the 
case throughout the 34 years of the all-volunteer force, that margin is 
shrinking.

The sharpest decline in black recruitment has been experienced by the 
Army, which has the most troops deployed in Iraq; black recruits dropped 
to 13 percent of the Army’s total in 2006 from 23 percent in 2001. In 
the Marines, with the second-largest force in Iraq, the share of black 
recruits decreased to 8 percent from 12 percent in the same period. 
There were also declines in the Navy and the Air Force, though not as 
great as those in the two other services.

The commander of the Army’s recruitment efforts, Maj. Gen. Thomas P. 
Bostick, himself a black graduate of West Point, said there were several 
reasons for the change, including a healthy job market competing for 
youths but also African-Americans’ disapproval of the war. General 
Bostick said parents and educators who had recommended the military in 
the past might be less inclined to do so today.

In a recent CBS News telephone poll, 83 percent of the blacks surveyed 
said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq; only 14 percent 
said it had done the right thing in taking military action. Whites, by 
contrast, were closely divided: 48 percent said military action had been 
right, and 46 percent said the United States should have stayed out. The 
poll was conducted Aug. 8-12 with 1,214 adults nationwide and had a 
margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The poll numbers show up in the daily hardships of recruiters trained by 
Sgt. First Class Abdul-Malik Muhammad, based in Birmingham, Ala. “With 
blacks, there is not really a great support for the war,” Sergeant 
Muhammad said, recalling one prospective recruit who was told by his 
parents that they would sever all ties with him if he enlisted.

There were few such warnings half a century ago, when, as a trailblazer 
in equal opportunity employment, the military offered a chance for 
education and training. “You could go right off the street and into the 
military and make something of yourself,” said Ronald Walters, director 
of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

One vocal opponent of the war, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior 
pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said, “I 
still think that in many ways the armed forces is unfortunately one of 
the few viable options for young people growing up in inner cities who 
may lack resources for college and have few other opportunities for 
upward mobility.”

But for others, times have changed. Joining up is not even part of the 
discussion for high school students who attend Bethel A.M.E. Church in 
Baltimore, said the Rev. Dana Ashton, who works with young people. 
Students within her congregation go to college.

And Latoya Rawls of Clinton, Md., has decided against the military 
despite flirting with the idea for some time. Ms. Rawls, a college 
student who works at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, cites both the 
danger of serving in Iraq — a peril evident in the wounded soldiers she 
sees at the hospital — and what she deems the unjust nature of the war.

The severity of the decline has caused the Army to take a close look at 
how it recruits blacks, General Bostick said, resulting in new marketing 
campaigns and the use of soldiers who are returned to their home areas 
to recruit.

In addition, the military has started offering higher enlistment 
bonuses. The Army met its recruitment goal in July after failing to do 
so the previous two months, and part of the success has been attributed 
to a new “quick ship” bonus of $20,000 for those recruits who can report 
to basic training by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Marjorie Connelly contributed reporting.




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