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US military sees sharp fall in black recruits

(UK Telegraph). Again, where is the surprise here? Who wants to join up for this debacle — they know their asses will be shipped off to Iraq. I love the spin below of how the drop off of black enrollment is actually a good thing because the racial balance of the military is being restored.

For years, black Americans have formed the backbone of the all-volunteer US army, filling a quarter of its ranks, though blacks account for only 13 per cent of the population. Blacks are more likely to treat the army as a lifelong career; a third of senior sergeants and non-commissioned officers are black. Suddenly, that is changing.

Apart from a sudden fall in the past two months in recruiting for the part-time National Guard, army recruitment as a whole has held more or less steady this year, with the help of increased enlistment bonuses and an early call-up for some youths originally due to enter basic training next year.

But the proportion of black recruits into the army was only 15.6 per cent, down from 22.3 per cent in the fiscal year 2001. In the part-time army reserve, the drop is sharper.

Army officials decline to speculate about the collapse in black recruiting, instead noting what they call a positive development, that army numbers will now reflect the make-up of society better.

Behind the scenes, there is more concern, according to Prof David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland.

“If there are fewer blacks coming in – and it is blacks who stay in and become NCOs – then six, seven, eight, nine years down the road, you can anticipate a shortage of sergeants,” he said.

Prof Charles Moskos, an expert on the military and race at Northwestern University in Chicago, said the drop-off began even before the Iraq war, with the election of President George W Bush in 2000 in the face of overwhelming black antipathy, an attitude that lingers to this day.

That hostility increased exponentially with the invasion of Iraq, which was opposed by a large majority of black Americans, amid suspicion over the reasons given for toppling Saddam Hussein and anger at billions of dollars spent overseas, rather than at home.

…Crucially, among older generations there are also sharp memories of the Vietnam War, in which blacks were seen as bearing an unfair burden of casualties. Martin Luther King spoke of it being fought by people of colour against people of colour in the interests of whites.

Kayla Roach, a black woman, said: “I know families whose kids want to join the military, and their parents are saying no. Maybe they have just one or two children and it’s scary to them.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding