From 1990 to 2015, the United States armed forces witnessed a 15 percent increase in its racial and ethnic minority population. This is no coincidence. Today’s high schools are filled with military personnel. In-school recruiters are targeting young African American and Hispanic men and women. Although it’s commendable that the military continues to diversify, its recruiting tactics toward minorities are particularly racist.
A 2016 study conducted by Pew Research Center concluded that white families have four times as much wealth as black families, and three times as much as Hispanic families. Military recruiters are using these statistics to their advantage. Instead of educating lower class high school students on the benefits of serving the country, they paint a portrait that is not accurate.
In 2008, two young brown males signed non-binding contracts with the army. It meant that they could change their minds about joining before reporting to boot camp. After the two backed out, Sgt. Glenn Marquette left disturbing voicemails condemning the men for their decisions. He told one of the young men that they “screwed” their life.
Covert racism takes place within the assumptions. Recruiters assume that black and brown children are not self-motivated. They assume that these minority children will amount to nothing in life. They assume that these children of color cannot prosper elsewhere. As a result, they present the military as a solitary road toward prosperity.
Recruiters convey the armed forces as a one-way destination toward health care, future employment and a way out of impoverishment. Minorities are then led to believe that serving the country is their only option. They are led to a “fantasy land” that supposedly solves all of life’s trials and tribulations.
It takes one with fortitude and resolve to serve in our nation’s armed forces. The men and women who sacrifice their lives every day for our livelihood deserve the utmost honor. The military has proven to be advantageous to veterans across the globe. However, it should not be treated as a domestic utopia for minorities. Boys and girls of color should never be spoken to as if they cannot excel elsewhere. Serving the country is a profitable occupation but never the only path.
To white boys and girls, defending the nation is presented as one option among many. To black and brown children, it is presented as the only option. Through predatory recruitment, potential doctors, lawyers and politicians of color are misinformed.
If an individual makes the courageous decision to serve the country, it should be because it’s what they desire.
A military recruiter’s job is to present training and occupational opportunities in the armed forces to individuals. It is not to persuade people that the military is their only choice. Minorities should never be defined by the conditions of their environment. Signing contractual paperwork to serve the country is a prestigious honor. Serving one’s true purpose, however, is something that no pen can touch.
– Jaden Edison is an electronic media freshman