Do Black Veterans Count?
Echoing the demand for justice and equitable treatment for Black veterans
On Saturday, June 6th my family and I joined thousands of Americans in Washington, D.C. at Black Lives Matter Plaza. That day we marched to the White House demanding justice for George Floyd and the countless other Black lives that have been murdered by police. As a bi-racial woman veteran and mother of three, taking my children to demonstrate their civic right of peaceful protest and to see democracy in action is a moment that I will never forget.
As we pulled into Farragut West metro station and began to mask up to take to the streets, I couldn’t help but feel sadness for the moment we were in, but also pride for taking part. My time as a service member was life-changing, and now as a leader within the veteran and military spouse entrepreneur space, I feel called to not remain silent at this moment. To use these rights that I fought to protect and preserve; to change the system that perpetuates the harm and systemic violence against Black people.
At that march for Black Lives, I was joined by my husband, kids, and my friend and colleague Lindsay Church. Together. We witnessed the power of collective action and witnessed the power of the people alive and well on the streets of DC. As we marched past the Department of Veteran Affairs headquarters building, I couldn’t help but think of the 2.5 million Black veterans around the country and of the treatment they’ve received since returning home.
Now it’s been just over three weeks since the world learned of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. Since then, organizations and individuals around the country and the world have issued statements on their positions and commitments on the issue of systemic racism. Some have opted to remain silent, which has become a statement of its own. Others have chosen to issue statements without stating that “Black Lives Matter” and committing to only status quo solutions.
Among those releasing status quo solutions on the issue is leadership from the Department of Veterans Affairs, despite their charge to care for nearly 2.5 million Black veterans.
“Do Black veterans count?”
This question was spray-painted on the side of the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter protests. Here we are on June 18th and this question has gone largely unaddressed and wholly unanswered by many veteran serving organizations in the country.
Instead many of whom, view this question as an act of vandalism rather than an act of justifiable anger at the disparities that exist for Black veterans.
Did you know that:
- Veterans using homeless shelters are 3.3 times more likely to be Black
- Black veterans are more likely to have a service-connected disability
- In 2011, Black veterans made up 10.8% of the overall veteran population but 26.7% of veterans in prison and 32.1% of those in jail.
- Median personal income for Black veterans was 17% lower than white veterans
- Median household income for Black veterans was 10% lower than white veterans
Based on data from the U.S. Department Veterans Affairs National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics.
Through the years, disparities such as that above point to uncomfortable truths for many in leadership within the veteran community: Our Black siblings-in-arms and veterans are not being treated equally in the country that they raised their right hand and swore an oath to protect against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Our Black siblings in arms fought for our country and wore the cloth honorably only to return to a society brimming with racism. When they wore the uniform of our country, they were respected by the public. The moment they took it off, they defaulted back into a system that does not value their lives.
Our Black siblings in arms fight by our side and return to a system that is rotted to the core with racism and white supremacy. For far too long, we have waited patiently, abiding by your rules and timelines, for promised change and an equitable community. The time of us waiting has passed.
To those in charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs, we no longer request justice.
Our Black siblings in arms demand both justice and change NOW!
This historical moment in American history presents an opportunity for you to commit to the core values of the organization designed to serve 2.5 million Black veterans. We call on you to walk the walk and lead the fight for justice and equity within our community.
If you are unable to say that Black Lives Matter, then we will say it for you.
We demand you to act within your own core values of integrity. We insist that you act with the highest moral principles.
We demand your commitment to listening to and to acknowledging that Black veterans and other Black members of our community are indeed facing injustice in our country and it must stop now.
We demand you to advocate on behalf of Black veterans and truly be veteran-centric by appropriately advancing the interests of Black veterans in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
We demand that you show respect to earn respect. You earn the respect of the Black veteran community by elevating their voices and having a diverse leadership team that represents them.
We demand that you strive for the highest quality of continuous improvement and correction of the systemic racism our entire country has been a part of for decades.
Now is the time for radical change!
Now is the time for world leaders to step up and hear what the black community is saying.
Now is NOT the time for status quo solutions.
We demand that you state that Black Lives Matter.
Data is from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics.
Stars and Stripes Article: https://www.stripes.com/news/us/national-world-war-ii-memorial-is-vandalized-1.631954