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How Does the Black Soldier Fit Into a Foreign War?

A look at the fight Black people in the military must have both overseas and at home

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Ukraine is in crisis. Once again, its eastern neighbor Russia is challenging its sovereignty as a nation by mobilizing its military at the border. A situation like this would certainly spell doom for most other small countries, but luckily for Ukraine, they've made some powerful friends. Several members of the UN have committed resources to aid the minor nation in its time of need. Particularly the US, which (as of the writing of this article) has deployed 8,500 troops inside of Ukraine. Among them, Black soldiers.

The existence of the Black soldier has always been a strange one. On one hand, they’ve been seen as a symbol of transracial patriotism. On the other hand, they’ve also been seen as expendable and not soldiers at all. But if you ask these men and women how they want to be seen, more than likely, they’ll say, “As an American.”

The United States' military prides itself on diversity and equal opportunity within its ranks. But that hasn't always been the case for the Black and Brown soldier. Even from the start of the Revolutionary War, there has always been a strong understanding that African American troops were "negro” before soldiers. Over the years, this sentiment manifested itself in several ways. From Black battalions being used for nothing but hard labor early during the Civil War, to Black veterans being lynched in their uniforms after returning home during World War 1, to drafting Black men at disproportionately high rates during the Vietnam War, the United States has made it quite clear that the color of your skin is matters more than the color of your uniform.

Though the country has grown more progressive and tolerant during these past few decades, racism is very much alive today and still plaguing people of color throughout America. That includes those serving our country.

Take the 2020 case of Lt. Caron Nazario for example, an Afro-Latino officer of the US Army who was pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and threatened by police while still in uniform during a simple traffic stop. The officers chose to ignore the fact that he was a soldier and defender of our nation and opted to treat him with hostility and violence. And for many Black and Brown soldiers, this is their reality. But it doesn't have to be.

In the end, it all comes back to the push for racial equality. Black men and women in uniform just want to be treated like regular soldiers and come back to communities that are not suffering from the old disease of racial prejudice. People of color have always answered the call whenever America needed able bodies for their wars, but the US has never thought to return the favor. Even today, there are Black troops stationed in Ukraine who will return to their communities and find out that their governor made it harder for them to vote. This has been the story of African-Americans in the military for far too long, and it's the responsibility of lawmakers to ensure that those who risk their lives for this country can come back and enjoy the full pleasures of being an American.

Contrary to popular belief, Black people do love the United States, even if it doesn't love us back. What else but love would cause us to volunteer to fight for a nation that has been so cruel towards us. This is where we were born, where our families are, where many of our ancestors lived and died. In many ways, African-Americans are more American than African, and we wish that the rest of America could see that.

There's no way of telling what will happen in Ukraine. As of the writing of this article, the world is holding its breath in suspense. But one thing is known. Black men and women have proudly served this country for hundreds of years. After fighting an enemy abroad, they should not have to come back and fight an enemy here.

1 Comment

sabrina collins
sabrina collins
Dec 03, 2023

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