Military Racial Policy


"Afros" and Black Power in Vietnam

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Reed Jr., Horace A. "Soldiers Look at Race Relations." Army Digest 25, no. 4 (April 1970): 4-13.

SuDoc No.: D101.12

A series of over 150 interviews were conducted at over five army posts by a bi-racial team of Army Digest staffers to determine soldiers attitudes towards race relations in the Army. The interviewers posed as civilians in an attempt to control bias. Short excerpts from 29 of those interviewed are included in the article.

One of the findings of the interviews was that race was not the only factor in "voluntary segregation" within the Army. Social, ethnic, educational, language, and geographic factors also played a part. Several observations were also made about the new black consciousness that was developing in many African-Americans. "Afro" haircuts for instance were one of the manifestations of this new consciousness. The military backlash against such consciousness was apparent in the reaction of one African-American NCO to "Afro" haircuts, "It's difficult to keep the hair clean with that type of cut. We understand the man is trying to gain an identity – but let him do it within reason." The backlash is also revealed in the charges of "reverse discrimination." "Treat us all equal, not special," said one white soldier.

The interviewees offer many suggestions to ease relations including education at all levels of the military, open debates between militants "of both sides," improved availability of African-American literature and information, an open door policy for reporting acts of discrimination, and an Equal Opportunity Office that would offer job programs similar to Project Transition.




FULL TEXT


Source: Reed Jr., Horace A. "Soldiers Look at Race Relations." Army Digest 25, no. 4 (April 1970): 4-13. Source: Reed Jr., Horace A. "Soldiers Look at Race Relations." Army Digest 25, no. 4 (April 1970): 4-13. Two decades ago, by an Executive Order, racial segregation ended in the Armed Forces.

That order of the late forties ended an old, dark chapter of unequal treatment of soldiers for reasons of race, creed, or color in what was hopefully to insure equal opportunity for all men in uniform. Since then, numerous regulations and Public Laws have been promulgated to preclude prejudice in any form.

But has formal desegregation policy put an end to prejudice? Does the United States Army, and the sister services as well, today face problems stemming from prejudices that linger in the minds of men? Just how acute are these problems? Are they confined to race and creed? Is there anything a commander can do to solve such problems on his post, camp, or station?

To study this entire vexing, complicated often powder-keg situation throughout the Army, bi-racial team of ARMY DIGEST staffers visited five posts, interviewed at least 150 men and women, ranging from company commanders to the newest inductees still in basic training. The team, a Negro captain and a white sergeant first class, wore civilian clothing. Those interviewed were not told that the interviewers were in the service. Every effort was made to put the individual completely at ease, to insure answers weren't "what the boss wants to hear."

Among its findings, the team discovered that there are still segregation problems within the Army – problems not readily identifiable – that may not at first glance be considered as such – that still can be vexing to a command and may affect morale. These may be termed as voluntary segregation by individuals into social groups, exactly as occurs in civilian life all over the world. It might be called a "birds of a feather flock together" syndrome. It is not confined to race and sometimes may cut across racial lines. Neither is it necessarily bad. However, it does tend to be more pronounced, more significant, more easily aggravated within the closed community of an Army unit than in the larger, more fluid civilian community.

The study indicates several such voluntary groupings that can be of importance to commanders.

Social and Ethnic Groupings. Men of like economic and ethnic origins often migrate together into the Army and endeavor to remain together. Or if from different areas, they frequently tend to gravitate together. Sometimes this tendency is turned to advantage by the Army, as in the "buddy system" that pairs young men for training and later operations. However, within the narrow social life of an Army unit, this is sometimes misinterpreted as deliberate physical segregation, particularly by others who may come from disadvantaged areas.

Educational Groupings. Much the same holds true for educational equals, although these groupings may tend to be less overt and therefore less apparent. To those of lower educational levels, there often appears to be a tacit understanding of various situations on the part of the more highly educated. There is a difficult-to-define feeling that the more highly educated tend to think and feel alike, even without a physical grouping. There is evidence in the interviews that many individuals have the feeling that there is discrimination in advancements and promotions. On the other hand, there is to a considerable degree an actual resentment of the young college graduate entering the Army; in many instances, they may be harassed and called "draft dodgers" by old-line noncommissioned officers. Rivalry between oldtimer and new arrival has always existed in any large organization, civilian or military. But it still presents a problem, not only to commanders but to many individuals within the ranks.

Geographical Bonds. This is another form of personal isolation and segregation. Men from the same geographical areas – whether state, region, or a particular hometown – frequently tend to gravitate together. And obviously, when there are ethnic or social or educational elements also involved, the bonds tend to become stronger. Too often this is viewed by the outsider as a conscious effort at exclusiveness or self-segregation. It has even caused physical confrontations.

The barrier of color, of course, remains the most significant point of friction and misunderstanding in the military today, Interviews with black soldiers, young and old, dramatically illustrate that often what is said is not what is meant or understood in this area. Centuries of neglect and abuse suffered by the black man is still evident today. But it is significant that a wide chasm separates the outlook of the older soldier and the new generation.

Black career soldiers with long service usually view the progress of race relations in the Army as excellent. They point out that they have an equal opportunity in every area of endeavor. They remember when they served in totally segregated units. In today's Army they see thousands of black soldiers as top grade NCOs. They also remember when they were segregated in off-post housing. Major advances in this area have been achieved, all because the Army forced the issue in surrounding communities, often in the face of stiff resistance.

Suspicions. But the young black soldier more often than not is suspicious of his surroundings and of the Army in general. He frequently has been involved in the turmoil of race relations in his community, including marches and demonstrations for equal rights. He is very conscious of his color and background. He is searching for an identity. The Afro haircut, the handshake, and the sunglasses are all a part of this quest for identity. As one young soldier said, "I don't know my own culture, my heritage, and what it means. How then, can I be expected to accept and understand the white man and his culture? I doubt that the white man really understands his own culture."

The militant attitude that stems from this search for identity isn't, as many black and white career soldiers think, a rebellion. At least the new generation black soldier doesn't view it as such.

Some officers and NCOs seem to feel that this militancy could retard the progress made over the past 20 years. One, a chaplain, said he felt that if the present trend continues it will erase all progress and could permanently stop the drive to equalize race relations. Another man, a career black soldier, felt that many of the younger men wanted something for nothing. "They act as though someone owed them something," he said.

Haircut requirements, for black and white soldiers alike, have caused pained looks and often disciplinary action by superiors.

"There is a chart in every barbershop showing the accepted lengths for haircuts and the styles approved," said one officer, "If the men abide by those styles, they'll not have any trouble."

For the black soldier wanting to be with the times, the Afro is "in." But his senior NCOs say their objection to the haircut is not a question of style but of hygiene. "It's difficult to keep the hair clean with that type of cut," they say. "We understand the man is trying to gain an identity – but let him do it within reason."

White Supports Black. As a rule, the white soldier supports the black soldier in his drive for equal treatment and recognition. But here, too, there is a skepticism of motive and method. The white soldier agrees that the black soldier has every right to demand and get the same privileges that he enjoys on and off post. But the militant attitude of the young black soldier causes many would-be supporters to question the black approach.

Many white soldiers say they have encountered prejudice in reverse – black prejudiced against white. One man said he had seen black sergeants give choice assignments to blacks in the reception station, completely excluding white soldiers with better qualifications. Others pointed out that the Army, in its desire to accord the black soldier equal treatment, often goes overboard, particularly when there is only one in a platoon. "In our platoon," said one soldier, "we have only one black soldier. The sergeants make so much over him that they completely ignore us. Treat us all equal, not special."

The attitudes of older black soldiers toward black recruits finds a frequent counterpart in the ranks of white soldiers. The older white soldier who grew up with the racial problem usually appreciates what has been done by the Army for its men. He, like his black counterpart, is awed by a less-than-enthusiastic corps of young soldiers. He is also pained by haircut problems, off-duty dress, and the younger soldier wanting reasons for obeying an order. But he accepts the fact that the new soldiers are better educated and more involved in community affairs than he was. He appreciates that they have little feeling of separateness when it comes to race relations.

Language Gap. One area where black and white join in racial suspicion is in the belief that the Mexican-American and Puerto Rican soldiers isolate themselves by ethnic group and compound this tendency by speaking Spanish. Both white and black feel that the Spanish-speaking soldier goes out of his way to shut them out. Here the language barrier causes the misunderstanding.

Many of the persons interviewed said, "They're in the U.S. Army and they should speak English." Such an opinion is often based on a lack of understanding of the individual situation. Most of those soldiers have grown up in families where Spanish was the only language spoken, as in the case of the Puerto Ricans. Also, many are first-generation Americans, just beginning to grasp the English language. These men say they do not band together to shut out black or white soldiers but are seeking familiar backgrounds and a common interest.

Soldiers who make an effort to communicate with these men often find their initiative rewarded. One soldier at Fort Lewis, Wash., said, "When we first started basic we thought Puerto Ricans were trying to set up their own clique, to segregate themselves. They spoke Spanish to each other and hung together. Then several of us asked if they would teach us to speak Spanish. Now we are working together and learning a language at the same time."

Don't Call Me That! The idioms brought into the service by recruits, particularly from the South, have caused problems and racial incidents. The terms "boy" and "nigger" are particularly offensive. Too often they are used without an awareness of their significance. One young black soldier at Ford Ord asked, "You know what it means to me when a man calls me 'boy'? It means that he is placing himself above me; he's trying to separate himself from me; and he thinks I'm something to be looked down on."

Another soldier at Fort Lewis said, "I was working with a white soldier in Germany and he called me a nigger. At first I was ready to belt him. Then I asked why he'd called me that. He said he hadn't meant anything by the word. He'd heard it all his life. His father and mother used it, and he got it from them."

Language and idioms must be carefully considered. Too often, the intended meaning is lost. Or new implications adhere to old terminology – witness the new status of "black" versus "Negro" or "soul brother." All the black soldiers interviewed stated that the "in" word was "black," but that "soul brother" or even Negro was acceptable. It wasn't the word that counted, rather the inflection of the voice when using it.

Spanish-speaking soldiers objected to such terms as "wetback" or "Mex." All have names and they want them used. As one young soldier stated, "We all have name tapes on our uniforms. Yet we find people calling us 'Hey, you,' 'boy' or 'Jose.' Let them read the name and use it. We're men and want to be treated accordingly."

Recognition. Problems of racial recognition and handling are sometimes overlooked by commanders and NCOs until a confrontation develops. In many cases commanders are shielded from the problem until an incident occurs. Many commanders feel that publicity on racial unrest in their units will create a problem where none now exists. But recognition of what is probably the greatest social upheaval in our time does and must demand programs of education and enlightenment. The black soldier wants to know where he stands and what he can expect from the Army. And the white and Spanish-speaking military men also want to be versed on their status.

Over the years the Army has made major advances in dealing with all races. In fact, most agree that the Army's record in handling racial problems and insuring equal opportunity is far better than that in their civilian communities. Still, the final solution rests with the individual, for it is he who will give life to the laws and regulations.

Recommendations. Any problem as pressing and important as equal treatment of soldiers, regardless of race, creed, or color, demands proposals for solution. Army personnel interviewed for this article made their own analyses of the problem and set forth recommendations for programs which they felt would help alleviate the root causes. Basic recommendations are:

Communication and Understanding: Soldiers of all ranks, races, and creeds stated that in these areas lie the solution to the problem of relations among the races. Communication and understanding must be covered in initial orientations and repeatedly covered throughout a soldier's career. The black soldier felt that the white soldier did not know or understand his personal problems his background and the goals he is trying to achieve. The white soldier frequently did not understand the impact of the local idioms he unthinkingly employed, such as "boy" or "nigger" – terms particularly offensive to the black soldier who views them as a form of verbal segregation. The use of "brother" and the Afro haircut, they say, are not a symbol of rebellion but a way of stressing black identity. Blacks further feel that the white soldier confuses these attributes with militancy and reverse segregation. Communication and understanding – just plain talking out the problem – would clear much of the confusion and suspicion.

Initial orientations for recruits should emphasize equal status of soldiers, it was felt by most of those interviewed. During processing, soldiers should be made aware of the policies affecting race relations. And each soldier should be informed that he is in the Army to do a job, not to create turmoil in conflict with his fellow soldiers.

Militant Views. "Let the militants of both sides debate, preferably in a theater and in front of an audience." That is another strongly recommended approach. The two sides would be free to discuss the problem, without fear of any resulting disciplinary action. Speakers would be open for questions from the audience. The ensuing discussion would allow the uncommitted to judge the merits of both arguments.

Character Guidance. This program provides another platform for airing attitudes, as a step toward increased awareness and understanding of racial problems. Several interviewees recommended that the present program be redirected. "Let the chaplain discuss and bear down on the point that all men are created equal under God," is how many men phrased it. This same program could be opened as a discussion period, monitored by a chaplain.

Information Aspects. Black history and the accomplishments of the black American were cited frequently as needing more emphasis. Virtually every soldier interviewed called for more stories and information on black personalities and their contribution to American culture. Historical literature on the races is in demand by many who recommended that it be made available in sufficient quantity for distribution to company dayrooms. The black soldier, in particular, wants more material on his culture and ancestry. For him, the surface is just beginning to be scratched. Many point out that television, radio, and advertisements using black actors and actresses have been enthusiastically received. "Let's have more of it," is the consensus of those interviewed.

Association. Social mingling of the races was strongly recommended as a way to get soldiers together on understanding this problem. Some soldiers called for a mandatory series of functions at noncommissioned officer and enlisted clubs. Such gatherings, they say, would allow men and women to talk freely about race relations and other problems. And it would give everybody a chance to air ideas in an informal atmosphere.

Today, they say, most soldiers break for clubs and social gatherings in surrounding civilian communities where civilian functions give only one side of a story. Social gatherings and club activities on post would allow exposure to both sides of the question.

In this same area, the men recommend that there be more civilian-military social functions, on and off post. The reason? The men feel that the Army program of equal opportunity is far ahead of that in civilian communities, and there is much civilians could learn from the Army's example in handling this whole complex social problem.

"Let them see what we have done and maybe they can apply it to their own area," is the way one sergeant stated it.

Open Door. The traditional open-door policy of commanders was usually felt to be marginally profitable. Many men feel that the preliminary military formalities required to open the door hamper free expression and should be eliminated. Most suggested that individual conferences and discussions might be preceded by a "bull session" in the company dayroom as an "ice-breaker." Some soldiers stated that they did not use the open-door policy to see their commanding officer, but rather preferred to see their sergeant. This was particularly true when the sergeant was black and the man with a problem was also black. The black soldier felt that a black sergeant would better understand his feelings.

Equal Opportunity Office. There are untold dividends for the Army in expanded use of the Equal Opportunity Office, particularly in encouraging young men from disadvantaged areas to apply for training under Project Transition. The Equal Opportunity Officer knows the frustrations of the minorities and can assist them in selecting opportunities under the program. Each successful trainee under Project Transition becomes a positive example of what the Army can accomplish in this field.




"...they are just bringing their environment into the Army with them..."


PV2 Frank Tucker
E Co., 1st Bn., 2d Training Brigade
Ford Ord, Calif.


Being in an academic atmosphere and away from much social life caused insulation between the outside and myself. Talking about racial problems did not help me see them until I came into the Army to live with so many people of all backgrounds.

Segregation in my company and platoon has often been experienced. Negroes seem to have more in common and tend to stick together. This has caused stereotyping of a certain group when one individual from the group caused trouble.

Wanting to be identified is not wrong. I want something or somebody to identify with. Many others like me look for others from the same hometown, or who have something in common such as a job, economic status, or educational background.

This desire can continue to the point of helping others. There was a Negro in my platoon with whom I had never felt anything in common until one day we pulled KP together and I found he was real cool and had something I could identify with. But the reverse is true – like someone not wanting to talk to me because he hasn't been to college.

We have to understand what it's really like to live in certain other cultures... Whites do not realize that they are on trial as well as any other group.

SP4 Janet Clayton
Overseas Replacement Station
Fort Lewis, Wash.


In basic training there were times the individual got blamed because of race.

Lack of understanding and knowledge cause prejudice... Laws and regulations can't change a person's feeling and prejudices... I feel that the Army is doing all it can to erase tensions.

PV2 Bruce C. Hendricks
A Co., 3d Bn., 3d Training Brigade
Fort Dix, N.J.


It's the individual that brings prejudice into the Army. Often this takes the form of geographical or educational prejudice. The men group in this manner to have a common identity. In our barracks, it's the guys from New Jersey that stick together, particularly the Negroes from there. I guess they are just bringing their environment into the Army with them.

SSG James E. Jarocki
A Co., 3d Bn., 3d Training Brigade
Fort Dix, N.J.


I don't think there is equal treatment on promotions and specialization – politics and malassignments often stop equal treatment. Prejudice and segregation in the Army – well, yes and no. Some men think that way when they come to me. I tell them we have only one color here. Army green. That breaks segregation ideas.

I think that when a man first enters the Army he should be indoctrinated that he is a man and will be treated accordingly... We have to let every man do his job, give him his chance, and promote him. If he can't do his job, get rid of him, regardless of race... I can't stand to see men knock each other for race or any other reason. It's the little things that cause problems. We have to think before we speak.

PV2 Patrick Britton
E Co., 1st Bn., 2d Training Brigade
Ford Ord, Calif.


I know that my parents are prejudiced – that is why I am prejudiced. There are always some. What I have seen in the Army has been one person of each group within my unit – Mexican, Negro, white – picked as a leader. The Army gives a chance and opportunities, but groups of certain people are still segregating themselves.

PSG Jessie L. Page
E Co., 3d Bn., 2d Training Brigade
Fort Lewis, Wash.


In some units Negroes are not used effectively... but it's individuals that do it, not Army policy. Usually it's men from the South that don't use the Negro soldier properly. Those from the North don't care what you are as long as you do the job. I don't believe that chances for promotion and specialization are equal... Most officers look at your past, not at what you are doing today. I feel that too often credit is not given where credit is due.

The respect we had for each other in Vietnam is washed away by the environment here in the States. A man's neighborhood and friends drag him back to what he was... this apples to both whites and blacks.

SFC Joseph Haskins
H & H Co., 138th Engineer Group
Fort Riley, Kan.


I came into the Army in 1951, about the time of enactment of full integration... Many Negroes expecting orders to Korea were pulled for assignment to England and were put into predominantly white units. There were really problems at that time... In one case, the commanding officer's driver who was a Negro got into some trouble. The CO said, "We didn't ask for you people, and none of you will ever make more than corporal while in my unit."... Now in my 19 years in the Army I have found that any individual can go far... with determination and intent to do well.

Today... black militants are not helping progress for their people or anyone else... There should be more mingling of all people, which will cause individuals to be less prone in thinking or saying the other guy is prejudiced when prejudice is really in the one who is accusing another. We Negroes must make the first step ourselves, so that we can show we are doing our part.

"Segregation has ended... but prejudice still exists..."


PV2 Gregory L. Clopton
E Co., 1st Bn.,
2d Training Brigade
Ford Ord, Calif.


Segregation has ended in the Army, but prejudice still exists... the problem that we now have is not something a man gets in the Army – he brings it into the service with him... something he's learned at home. One thing I think would help to get soldiers to understand each other is to spread them out in the barracks... if there was a mix... I think we would talk to more and understand better. The men might object at first but I think they would eventually appreciate the experience.

I would like to see the militants of both sides publicly debate the problem. And I'd like to have them open to questions by all of us.

LT Robert J. Feser
H Co., 2d Bn., 3d Armored Cavalry
Fort Lewis, Wash.


I do feel that black soldiers have a better chance in the Army. Commanders are listeners more, and in a way they are overprotective and bend backwards to help them... I believe attitudes are changing more every day on race relations... I can say that the Army offers a better race relations program than the civilian communities... When I came in the service I was amazed at how well the military handled the problem.

PV1 Mason Amos
A Co., 3d Bn., 3d Training Brigade
Fort Dix, N.J.


I don't think everyone is given equal treatment on promotions, assignments, and specialization. It depends on the NCOs and what they think of you. The way to solve the racial problem is through education on individual accomplishments of the races. Officers and NCOs have to get to know their men as men, not as people of different races... and learn to trust their men.

CPT Shelly M. Saunders, WAC
Overseas Replacement Station
Fort Lewis, Wash.


I've heard of incidents where inadequate supervision resulted in some of the lower grade enlisted personnel being criticized because of color. We had an incident here where a sergeant relieved a young soldier from duty because "he had a sloppy uniform." The incident was investigated... I knew that the man was always spotless and spit-shined. It turned out the sergeant was prejudiced, and the man was cleared. But prejudice will always be present in some degree – we're a society just like civilian life. It's present there, and it's present here. Somehow we have to learn to recognize each other for what we are, not by color or creed.

PV1 Robert E. Williams
E Co., 3d Bn., 2d Training Company
Fort Lewis, Wash.


Segregation often works in reverse. We have one Negro in our platoon, and he seems to get all the attention and he asks for it now. This special treatment of one man has been bad for the morale of the rest of us. Association with Negroes is fine, but intimate relationships cause social problems – many people feel they are strong and can overcome this, but they can't. Our generation has made changes... the one that comes after us will be even more liberal. But it's still going to take time.

PFC Ronald E. Franks
H Co., 2d Bn., 3d Armored Cavalry
Fort Lewis, Wash.


...Segregation still exists... We can see it every day... We were in Yakima on an exercise and the Negroes had to stay behind after the exercise was finished. The white guys got to come home. Promotions aren't equal... we're under a lot of pressure. One mistake and we're finished and out of the promotion picture completely. I think the Mexican-American soldier is in the same boat as we are.

The only way to solve the racial problem is for all of us to sit down and discuss it. We have to talk. Soldiers have to learn how the other man lives, how he lived before he came into the Army. We have to appreciate each other.

1SG Fred H. Stoney
A Co., 3d Bn.,
Fort Dix, N.J.


I was here in 1948 when the law ending segregation began... today you will find that certain posts differ from others... even an Executive Order will not change a man's mind... I say that the Army's opportunities are better than civilian communities. The Army's teachings will even go back to civilian life with an individual. There should be more liliaison between civilian communities and the Army community – like social mingling both on and off post.

"...too many people blame their own shortcomings on racial prejudice..."


PV2 Glenda Roose
WAC Detachment, Fort Jackson, S.C.


We have to learn to be more compatible. There has to be understanding, and we have to get together and talk about the problem. In the Army I feel enlisted people should have meetings to work out the problem... maybe even make a survey of the feelings.

PFC Russell L. Van Dorn
Patient, U.S. Army Hospital
Fort Ord, Calif.


I noticed in the reception station that Negro sergeants made the "soul brother" platoon guides and gave them the best jobs. But in the training companies they treated us alike. If a man performed, he got promoted. We have to have a program where everyone can get together. It would be a start to get the soul brothers and the whites together to talk.

SP4 Santiago C. Sandoval
H & H Co., 138th Engineer Group
Fort Riley, Kan.


In my company of four or five men will stick together. They seem to feel they can get along better that way. It's a personal choice, not a policy. When I volunteered for the draft, people in my hometown asked me why I wanted in the Army... I tell them I'm an American and I have a commitment. I get upset when someone calls me a Mex or a wetback.

SP4 Sandra L. Sims, WAC
Finance Office, Overseas Replacement Station
Fort Lewis, Wash.


I've met a few people in the Army that are prejudiced, but they try to control it... Prejudice has to be taught. The younger generation has to forget what their parents taught them.

I think the situation has been improved through mass media commercials and advertisements – they now show the Negro as human and like everyone else. I remember just a few years ago, all the commercials were white. No Negroes at all. The new trend is a good thing, and we need more of it.

PSG William F. Hood
A Co., 11th Bn., 3d Training Brigade
Fort Jackson, S.C.


One thing that is needed is more publicity on the black man and his history. The dayrooms should carry more material on the history of the black man in the military. There should be stories on black leaders. The black soldier should be encouraged to undertake programs to help himself. He should be given more challenging leadership positions. I feel that many of the statements of prejudice in the Army are unwarranted – too many people blame their own shortcomings on racial prejudice.

PV2 Leonard Arvizu
E Co., 3d Bn., 2d Training Brigade
Fort Lewis, Wash.


There are three Spanish, one Puerto Rican, and one Hawaiian in my platoon. Many times the Spanish talk only their own language among themselves. This doesn't create hatred, but there are comments from some who don't understand what they are saying. But then one English-speaking fellow became interested in learning Spanish and asked me to teach him.

CPT Robert Colvin
Commanding Officer, D Co., 12 Bn., 3d Training Brigade
Fort Jackson, S.C.


To make certain that a man is heard. I have a standing policy that he does not have to go through the chain of command to see me. In this regular weekly session, eight men on an average come in to talk with me. Most have problems other than racial – usually financial, family, or both. In my time in the service, I have heard of isolated incidents of racial discrimination but have never witnessed any.

SSG Siles M. Moses
C Co., 34th Infantry
Fort Riley, Kan.


In my company the Negro soldiers will come to me before their own platoon sergeant, particularly if he is white, even though he is a good man and a leader. They just want to talk to one of their own kind. Prejudice is something a man carries in his subconscious mind, but you can feel it when you talk to a man.

I think we have to have more social functions where the men can meet – I think they should be mandatory. When men relax at the club, they can try for ideas for solving racial problems on each other. They will talk more in an informal atmosphere than in a conference.

"...it's not enough to pass a law or write a regulation..."


CPT Michael J. Hoagland
Commanding Officer, C Co.
34th Infantry, Fort Riley, Kan.


The only segregation in the Army is individually imposed. The identical backgrounds have much to do with whether men group together. Often men are afraid to mix beyond people of like backgrounds. In Vietnam men saw that all of us bled the same color blood, but when they return home, the environments take over again. The same men begin to think in terms of their own societies. I feel that TV coverage of racial news is opinionated and causes trouble. The problem of race respect will be a long time in the answering... Publicity of the Negro soldier's background and what he's done in the Army can help... Both sides need to understand.

SP5 James G. Numez
H Co., 2d Bn., 3d Armored Cavalry
Fort Lewis, Wash.


I personally have never been denied a chance at schools or promotions. In 2 years in Vietnam I didn't see any form of prejudice... My sergeant was a Negro; he was fair to me. I don't even like to think about anyone being prejudiced.

The only way we will ever get rid of the prejudice among races is to learn to be friends. We have to talk with each other and respect each other. The one thing we don't need today is more enemies.

PV2 James C. Nannos
A Co., Bn., 3d Training Brigade
Fort Dix, N.J.


There is a polarization of people in the Army. Puerto Ricans, for example, want to be together because of their language and common background. I don't think it's done to exclude anyone. Also I see that men of like educational backgrounds, college and high school dropouts, gravitate together. The same thing applies to men from the same hometowns. The men are seeking a common identity. They want to be with others they feel will understand them... I think the Army should give more weight to personal qualifications – records should show where a militant of either side... I think the races should be mixed, so there is no over-balance in a company.

LT Gerald MacDonald
C Co., 34th Infantry
Fort Riley, Kan.


The personal segregation we have in the Army is due to men seeking a common interest. I like to be with people that have ideas common to my own.

The way to solve the racial situation is to stop accusing each other of prejudice and sit down and discuss our backgrounds. We simply need more understanding of each other.

SSG Robert F. Reid
Overseas Replacement Station
Fort Lewis, Wash.


I'm from the South, and I'm for integration. I think the Army has done a good job on it. I notice that the Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans stick together. Many don't seem to want to learn to speak English – but maybe they haven't been given a chance to learn. About 6 months ago, a Puerto Rican soldier came through here. He couldn't speak English. We found he hadn't even finished basic training. He'd been shuffled from one unit to another. No one wanted to give him a chance. He certainly hadn't had an equal opportunity to do anything.

When I was growing up I was taught that the Negro was supposed to get off the street when I came by. But after entering the Army, my opinion changed. I have a friend. He's a Negro. I take him home to North Carolina with me. My parent's aren't too keen about it, but that's too bad for them.

SSG Willie Beck, Jr.
H & H Co., 138th Engineer Group
Fort Riley, Kan.


In Germany a man called me a nigger and when I asked him why, he said it was the way he'd been taught. After I sat down and explained what it meant to me, he apologized... Many who think they are prejudiced are only saying what they have heard their parents say for years. I feel that the young soldiers who don't like the Army, who rebel against it, would do the same thing on the outside. It's the man, not the system.

I do believe we need more talk between races. People have to get together and discuss the problem. That's the only way we can work it out.

LT Robert A. Bowdish
H & H Co., 138th Engineer Group
Fort Riley, Kan.


I pride the Negro who takes pride in his people, calls the other "brother" much like a religious term, and realizes the proud heritage... of his group. Only a narrow-minded person can be prejudiced or think different about this minority group.

My first sergeant and I open ourselves regularly to group meetings for questions and answers... I try to make problems of others apply to myself rather than passing them off as their problems. No matter how small or simple they may seem, we can't just say this is a personal problem to that individual.




Equal Opportunity Office = A Total Involvement


Most of the installations visited by the ARMY DIGEST reporter team direct their EEO actions toward civilian employees exclusively. They are here to sold complaints and insure that accusations of unfair treatment are handled expeditiously. They do not, as a rule, operate in the realm of the military.

Typical of the program is the operation of the Equal Opportunity Office at Fort Lewis, Wash., where the able head of the office, Harold "Hank" Henderson, is dedicated to the task of insuring that his office carries out the mission implied in the title. At the same time, he has the additional responsibility for overseeing the military counterpart, the Equal Opportunity and Treatment of Military Personnel Program.

The Fort Lewis office has committed itself to a total involvement, with programs to prevent racial and minority discrimination in all areas and looking ahead to the day when many of these men will leave the Army and return to civilian life.

To prepare the men to meet responsibilities and demands of civilian environment, the Fort Lewis EEO strives to get them into Project Transition.

"Many of these men don't really want to leave the Army," says Hank Henderson. "But they have become involved, verbally, with the 'I hate the Army group' and can't gracefully back out. They don't really have a marketable skill for the civilian market. Many of them are scared or returning home unprepared. That's why we are placing such heavy emphasis on getting them into Transition."

At least once a week Hank Henderson goes down to the military units along with other staff officers to talk to the men scheduled for discharge.

"Often they try to defeat me by calling me an 'Uncle Tom' or some such. But I come right back and explain that I have only a short time with their unit and it's their future we're trying to help. If they want to waste the time, then so be it. After that, they usually settle down and listen. Most of them really want to be ready to take productive places in their neighborhoods. Project Transition can help them do that."

To handle discrimination complaints from civilian and military personnel and to improve the racial picture overall, Mr. Henderson has a staff of six counselors on the civilian side and deputy EO officers in all military units down to battalion level.

The military EO officers handle complaints from the men and work with the post EO to direct disadvantaged soldiers into productive fields through education and training.

"We get complaints, on one hand, from NCOs regarding Afro haircuts and, on the other, from men claiming prejudice because they think someone is after them for their Mod dress and sunglasses," said Mr. Henderson. "Some of the complaints are valid, others aren't. I personally don't like the Afro haircut, but only because it is difficult to keep clean. However, I do understand that this is another effort by the men to establish an identity. Here at Fort Lewis the commanders decide on haircuts and determine if they fall within the accepted styles posted in the barber shops. It seems to work."

One thing that makes the EEO officer's job easier at Fort Lewis is the acceptance of the need for equal opportunities by the post commander and the access to the commander by the EEO officer.

"The commanding general listens to what I have to say, and he acts on our recommendations," said Mr. Henderson. "What we want here is a progressive program of equal treatment for everyone. We of the EEO office and the commanding general don't want to be in the position of putting out fires. We want to prevent the fire from ever starting."

If the Equal Employment Opportunity Program and its military counterpart, the Equal Opportunity and Treatment Program, are followed, some day in the future when demonstrations occur, we'll be hearing the men say "The Army gave me my chance" rather than "the damned Army never did a thing for me."


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Kief Schladweiler
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