Unfortunately, racism in the military isn’t new. Service members and their families have experienced discrimination based on a host of demographic reasons from the very first mustering of the first well-regulated militia.
Now, a new major study from Blue Star Families lays bare the exact prevalence of racial discrimination in the military today.
Biggest Takeaways From the New Study About Racism in the Military
Service members of color who responded to the survey say that 57% of them have been present when peers made racist comments or jokes. Among Black respondents alone, that number was even higher at 65%.
Among Veterans of color who responded to the survey, 51% reported that they’ve experienced some type of discrimination based on race or ethnic identity at least once. Not only that, after returning home to rejoin the domestic workforce, 65% reported that they faced unfair treatment on the job.
Alarmingly, Black female military spouses earn 54% less than the overall population, and female spouses of Hispanic descent earn a whopping 66% less.
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Diversity in the Military Provides Individual and Collective Benefits
For example, among respondents of color who were active-duty personnel, 79% said that they viewed their military experience positively. Roughly 60% of active-duty Hispanic service members hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, vastly outnumbering their civilian counterpart population, where just 19% hold a bachelor’s degree.
Professional development is cited by many in minority populations as a strong benefit of their military service.
Still, for all of those who benefit and forge a strong path ahead, there are many who lose out. Almost one in ten Veterans of color directly cite racism as a reason they ended their military service.
People are hungry for change. 64% of families of active-duty personnel say that more must be done to create a balanced and equal fighting force.
This report comes at a time when conversations of racial identity and equality are once again at the forefront of the national dialog. It also arrives after allegations of discrimination plague the nation’s military academies.
The institutions that provide a pipeline to active-duty leadership are not spared from an atmosphere of inequality.
Small, rural congressional districts mean that certain demographics have precedence over others, as most cadets are nominated by a U.S. senator or representative. Only 6% of those nominations went to Black candidates in 2021, and 8% went to Hispanic students.
Racism in the military population and the national academies isn’t just a matter for the “woke” mob, either. According to one researcher, racial discrimination and subsequent tensions can even decrease combat effectiveness, putting national security at risk.
Blue Star Families’s Survey of Racism in the Military
The survey ran for 14 months and collected data from 2,731 respondents from a pool of Veterans, spouses, and active-duty service members. It ran in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.
While the results are alarming, the diversity in the military is increasing. Through additional programs and policies, surveys like these may someday report much better results.
In the days when race is a primary driver of hate in America, we can’t afford to let discrimination corrode the camaraderie and companionship that keep the nation’s service members safe and strong for the rest of us.
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