The January 6, 2021, insurrection at the United States Capitol was one of the most visible displays of white supremacy in recent history. It posed a dire threat to the very core of our democracy, and media reports have found a number of military veterans among the ranks of insurrectionists working to dismantle our democracy.
White supremacy is woven into the fibers of this country and has a long history of existing within the military, from the earliest days of our founding through today.
The military and veteran community is a microcosm of America. While some veterans like the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers, and individuals like Harriet Tubman and Stokely Carmichael have led movements for abolition and civil rights, others have fought for the opposite.
While the military was one of the first major institutions to integrate in 1948, racism persisted. The Ku Klux Klan, one of the most notorious white supremacist organizations, was founded by a group of confederate veterans, and it is well known that while race relations have improved, service members and veterans are still targeted to join organizations fighting to perpetuate white supremacy.
In fact, a 2017 Department of Defense (DOD) survey found that over 30 percent of Black service members experienced racial discrimination. A 2019 Military Times survey found that 36 percent of all respondents had seen white supremacist and racist ideologies in the military, rising from 22 percent of respondents in 2018. A survey of union employees at the VA found that 55 percent witnessed racial discrimination against veterans while at work.
While discrimination is not the sole cause, there is no doubt that it correlates to the higher rates of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness evident in the Black veteran population, as compared to the veteran population in general. Black veterans comprise 33 percent of the population of veterans experiencing homelessness, but only 12 percent of the veteran population.
Black service members continue to serve in the military and love this country despite its inability to genuinely love them back. Among the extensive list of injustices they face are those faced by everyday Black Americans, including discrimination in the housing and labor markets, lower than average health outcomes, and many others.
Veteran homelessness has myriad contributing factors, meaning that many systems and organizations across a community must commit to solutions to ensure no veteran is homeless. The long reach of white supremacy is a key issue that must be tackled head on, in all sectors from the military to the housing and labor markets, to health care systems and beyond. When we make progress toward equity for Black veterans, we make progress for all veterans.
Visit [www.nchv.org] to learn about the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.