By Wanda “Sistah Soldier” Petty, President & CEO
In 1989 many of us watched the film named “Glory.” It reflected a story about a 1989 American war film directed by Edward Zwick about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union Army’s second African-American regiment in the American Civil War. The story shared the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and their journey. We watched our Black brothers endure many beatings and accusations and fight a war that we weren’t welcome to participate in. However, if African Americans wouldn’t have fought, the war stood a good chance of being lost.
Leaders denied opportunities for a Black soldier to use their creativity until it became necessary.
An all-volunteer Infantry platoon made up of Black soldiers—some Northern freemen, some escaped slaves—were proud to serve and dedicated to their country—much of what we experience today. In hindsight, not much has changed. Except servicemembers have pushed their way through the hardships placed before them to get promoted, be respected, and can openly be acknowledged to attend and graduate from West Point or the Academy. Things are more discreet when it comes to racism verbally (sometimes), and other times it’s punished with a slap on the hand.
The George Floyd protests have made more things openly visible than one could imagine. It’s caused America to look at its widespread acts of racism in depth. Police departments are being pulled apart for the shameful punishments they apply only to people of color, while they bluntly choose to make us feel as if we are targets running in war-games. I would have never imagined we would experience such hate at one time by people we work side by side with to provide justice for all.
I said all of this to bring you to what may seem surprising to some I, for one, because I’d like to believe we had surpassed the discriminatory behaviors in the military more than the civilian world, because of our commitment to working as a team. I recently read an article in the Uinterview about U.S. Navy Capt. Scott Bethmann and his wife’s conversation with racial slurs toward the Black Lives Matter movement. He was unaware that he was recording himself on Facebook live while the two of them carried on mentioning derogatory statements. I reflected on my being active duty, and I remembered one of my supervisors and his buddy. They intended to make life very difficult for me consistently, but every time their attempt was degraded. I was grateful I had served in several locations as the unit’s Equal Opportunity Advisor. In this position, I could identify behaviors and know what actions to take to protect myself, and others targeted. I can only imagine what it’s like being in the military with today’s activities going on. Actions like Scott Bethmann will never be accepted while one is serving or retired.
Military service members must remember hatred acts will not collaborate teamwork, but only stir strife and demise. If you feel you’re being harassed or know of anyone else in this situation, stand up for them and report it. You could save their life. Now more than ever, we must speak up when we see something or someone expose their harmful intentions. Your future is at stake, our future is at stake, and it must stop.
Now is not the time for being quiet but time for actions. I know you may have limitations in how you can express yourself, but in an orderly fashion, tell everyone you know, keep a journal and report nonsense. You’ve worked too hard to achieve the accomplishments you have to lose it all because of unexpected reactions. When we speak up, we become real heroes. It’s time for real change (from the inside out)! Most of all, be safe. I know you can hang in there. Thank you for serving, and we’re rooting for you!
Sistah Soldier is an inspirational leader who helps veterans, women, and minorities step into God’s call for their lives using their creative skills. She’s the CEO, Host, and Executive Producer of SHE VET iNSPIRES Television Show and the Executive Recruiter for SHE MediaTech™.