Honoring Black History Month

February 24, 2020

Blue Star Families believes that the diversity of our Armed Forces is one of its greatest strengths, and we are committed to ensuring that all service members and military families feel a sense of belonging to their military communities.

During Black History Month, we honor African Americans who struggled for freedom, justice, and equality in the face of adversity and persecution. In particular, we pay tribute to those who fought for the safety and security of the United States – despite enduring racial discrimination at home and in the Armed Forces. 

Since the dawn of the American Revolution, African Americans have played a critical role in the history of the United States military:

As we reflect upon the achievements of African Americans in the Armed Forces, we must also remember that there is still work to be done. African Americans have been consistently underrepresented among commissioned officers (9%), relative to their overall share of the force (17% in 2015). Moreover, the military has witnessed a rising tide of white supremacy in recent years. According to a 2019 Military Times poll of 1,630 active-duty members, 36% of respondents reported seeing signs of white nationalism or racist ideology in the U.S. Armed Forces – a significant rise from the year before, when 22% reported witnessing these extremist views. In the same survey, more than half of service members of color reported experiencing incidents of racism or racist ideology, up from 42% in 2017.

On Wednesday, February 11, 2020, the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel convened a hearing to discuss this issue, titled “Alarming Incidents of White Supremacy in the Military – How to Stop It? Dr. Mark Pitcavage from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) argued that the rising tide of white supremacy must be met with increased training and vigilance: “If you see something, say something… We have to give people educated eyes. We have to give them the training… to recognize signs online and in the real world of this sort of extremism. Military recruiters need this, initial entry trainers need this, advanced trainers need this, company grade officers, NCOs, and EOs need this…”

Racism, hate, and bigotry are injurious to military family readiness by undermining military families’ sense of belonging. Belonging is important to the health and well-being of active-duty military and veteran families. In order to cultivate a greater sense of belonging among our active duty military families (and thereby improve readiness), we must equip commands to root out racism, bigotry, and hate from our military communities.

As such, we have asked Congress to include questions in command climate assessments about command’s support for an inclusive, welcoming, and non-discriminatory environment. We have further recommended that these assessments include questions about whether respondents had ever witnessed “white supremacist” activity in the workplace. 

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