Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans

861 – Surgical Technician

Henry Flipper
Henry Flipper battled prejudice in the military
In the legitimate complaints about veterans coming home and not getting their due, I have come across a particularly ugly reminder from the Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans

“The end of the Civil War marked a new era of racial terror and violence directed at black people in the United States that has not been adequately acknowledged or addressed in this country… The violent response to freedom for former slaves was followed by decades of racial terror lynchings and targeted violence designed to sustain white supremacy and racial hierarchy.”

The more than 40,000 black soldiers who died in the Civil War fought to protect a Union that rejected them in the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott ruling of 1857.

“No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service…”

The great equalizer?

“Military service sparked dreams of racial equality for generations of African Americans. But most black veterans were not welcomed home and honored for their service. Instead, during the lynching era, many black veterans were targeted for mistreatment, violence, and murder because of their race and status as veterans. Indeed, black veterans risked violence simply by wearing their uniforms on American soil.”

Particularly egregious was the Red Summer of 1919, right after WWI. “In Pittsburgh for example, the Ku Klux Klan made their goal of using violence clear with notices that read: ‘The war is over, negroes. Stay in your place. If you don’t, we’ll put you there.'”

Dear old dad

I’ve written before about my father’s complicated feelings about the military, I suspect due in part to his knowledge of history. In the European theater at the close of World War II, he was “861 – Surgical Technician”

“Performs various duties to assist medical officers in rendering surgical treatment. Prepares operating room and surgical equipment for use; assists operating personnel; administers hypodermic injections as instructed; cleans operating room and sterilizes equipment; assists in transporting patients from wards to operating room; sterilizes linens and instruments; performs duties during operation that cannot be done by operating personnel; gives first aid treatment; instructs others in simple surgical duties. Should be at least a high school graduate.”

This seems to have been applicable to him: How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans, “The sweeping bill promised prosperity to veterans. So why didn’t black Americans benefit?”

Our current sin

We Deport Veterans: “For decades, we’ve deported military veterans—legal residents of the United States—while dangling citizenship before them. Congressional Hispanic Caucus estimates there are about 3,000 instances of veterans being deported to other countries.

“We also know that tens of thousands of immigrants serve in the U.S. military. According to Department of Defense statistics, about 70,000 non-citizen people born outside of the United States were serving in the military between 1999 and 2008.

“According to a 2017 report from the National Immigration Forum, about 40,000 immigrants currently serve in the armed forces and about 5,000 non-citizens enlist each year. Furthermore, as of 2016, about 511,000 veterans were foreign-born. And more than 20 percent of Medal of Honor recipients are immigrants to the United States.

“Those immigrants who can enlist in the U.S. military are often promised fast-tracked access to a green card. In reality, however, most of these vets neither apply for nor attain citizenship. Many of these enlisted immigrants will tell you they were promised citizenship by recruiters or that their paperwork has at least been initiated. Many even believe they attained citizenship simply by enlisting and swearing to defend the United States.

“So why doesn’t the U.S. military ensure that immigrants are presented with accurate facts on the possibility of their path to citizenship? Where’s the support system developed to ensure they complete each step when it’s available to them?”