A symbol of pride or exploitation?

A black lieutenant in the Territorial Army wrote in the Guardian today that wayward black youths would benefit from a career in the army just as he did but is the military really the answer?

Lieutenant Clive Lewis, who has just returned from from action in Afghanistan believes that black boys are often abandoned by the education system at the first sign of trouble and their parents do not have the time or will to focus their children’s energies on education.

In his view the army would serve as a good deterrent from gang membership by black youths and would instill discipline as well as provide the right career advancement that they need.

Lieutenant Lewis believes that the army is still perceived by many in the black community as a racist and more importantly colonial army which enforced British rule in Africa, and he does not shy away from accepting these arguments.

However, in his view the army has now changed and is no longer the racist organisation it once was. He gives a good example of how new migrant groups in America take advantage of serving in the military for social mobility. Many receive a college education as a result and the same principles apply in the UK.

Lieutenant Lewis points to the fact that Grenada-born Johnson Beharry became the first soldier since the Falklands to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Racism forces blacks into the military

Lieutenant Lewis does not mention that racism has played a role in why so many African-Americans enlist in the army. In an article on the Telegraph website titled, “US military sees sharp fall in black recruits” (December 2004), James Golladay who served in the US coastguard said “…blacks tended to join the military for stable employment, college scholarships and the chance to learn valuable skills.”

From this perspective the military is not seen as some benevolent organisation for African-Americans but a way to make ends meet. African-Americans  do not perceive the US military’s objectives as changed from the old colonial conquests.

Professor Charles Moskos, an expert on the military and race at Northwestern University in Chicago said that the majority of African-Americans were against the invasion of Iraq and was suspicious of the US government’s reasons for the invasion.

Constant Allen’s husband, grandfather and uncle have all served in the US military and yet she said, “Why should I go fight the white man’s war when there’s nothing for us here?

This clearly shows that African-Americans still perceive US military action as suspect and in the interests of colonial conquests to say the least.

Is Lieutenant Lewis essentially saying that black youths in this country have no other options available but the military? Is this really a good thing? Is he also saying that black youths should fight in military conflicts in countries and against nations that will be predominately non European? It seems that he is and that is worrying.

Rachel Jones mentions in an article for The Chicago Reporter that poor minorities and poor whites are targeted by US recruiters for the army and coincidentally the same language that Lieutenant Lewis used such as career advancement and opportunities is also used by those recruiters.

Is Lieutenant Lewis serving the same purpose with this call for black youths to join the British military? It is debatable but the evidence is there for readers to make their own minds up.

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