December 20, 2007
In 1966, succinctly explaining one of his reasons for not enlisting in the army, Muhammad Ali said “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” Today, it seems that many black youth are singing the same note. As the US disastrously skates through the Iraq War with blinders on, spouting off premature congratulatory sound bytes conveniently planted in White House speeches, the number of black youth enlistees is dramatically dropping.
Since fiscal year 2000, Defense Department statistics show that the number of young black enlistees has fallen by more than 58 percent . Additionally, according to data obtained by The Associated Press, “the decline covers all four military services for active duty recruits, and the drop is even more dramatic when National Guard and Reserve recruiting is included.”
What are the reasons for these dramatic (yet welcomed by me) drops in enrollment? Mistrust of the Bush administration, and what Boston.com reported as “the notion that black soldiers are being steered to combat jobs, a lingering perception from the Vietnam War,” and the general unpopularity among blacks of the war in Iraq.
“Why would we go over there and help them [Iraqis], when [the US government] can’t help us over here?” Nathaniel Daley, a young black man from Atlantic City, New Jersey, told Boston.com recently, noting the government’s failure in 2005 at providing Hurricane Katrina relief.
The war “is unnecessary,” Jackson said. “It’s not our war. We got our own war here, just staying alive,” he added, noting his hometown of Philadelphia has racked up more than 200 homicides so far this year, most involving young black men.
Other articles say similar things about the state of black enlistees.
Not to be defeated by the news of wisened up black youth, in an unprecedented move, America is making black youth are a priority–a priority when their bodies are needed to catch bullets in their shallow rib cages. With black youth as the largest decline of any demographic group, the US military has beefed up its recruitment efforts targeting black youth. The military lowered age, education, and physical fitness standards. And because some black youth may have criminal records, recruiters turning a blind eye to past criminal records is sure to catch more black youth.