The above title paraphrases an observation made by my longtime friend and brother, Muhammad Ali, when the attempt was made to draft him into the U.S. Army. His point was well made, that the people he was being urged to fight against had been less abusive to him than the people he was being asked to fight for. Syndicated columnist Derrick Z. Jackson takes a similar position in his column which appeared in the March 3rd issue of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. His article is entitled: “BLACKS HAVE CAUSE TO OPPOSE A WAR IN IRAQ.”
He begins by referring to a poll by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which showed that “44 percent of African-Americans support the use of military force in Iraq. That compares with 73 percent of White Americans. Other polls show black support to be far less. To illustrate this, he referred to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby America poll which found that only 23 per cent of African Americans strongly or somewhat supported a war, compared with 62 per cent of White Americans. He further pointed to an October poll taken by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, “which generally does the most extensive polling of African-Americans, found that only 19 per cent of African-Americans supported a war with Iraq.”
The reason, he points out, are obvious. African-Americans are 12 per cent of the general population but make up 21 per cent of military personnel and 30 per cent of Army enlistees. He further reveals that we made up 23 per cent of the troops sent to the 1991 Gulf War. As to why Blacks so disproportionately enter the armed services, Mr. Jackson points out “why Blacks go into the service in the first place. Many of them are refugees from a job and collegiate environment that is disproportionately hostile to them.” President Bush, the writer points out, “recently stoked the hostility by filing a brief to the Supreme Court opposing the University of Michigan’s affirmative-action program.
“Time after time,” Columnist Jackson states, “war after war, African-Americans fought and died for the nation’s agenda only to see the nation ignore or reject their issues. Black folks fought in the Revolution and slavery lasted nearly another century. Black soldiers were promised land after the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 and never got it.
“In the Civil War, African-Americans, then 14 percent of the population, were 20 percent of the Union casualties. Yet segregation and second-class opportunities were the rule for almost another century. Black folks fought in World War I in the hopes of winning full citizenship. They were rewarded with White race riots. Participation in World War II and Korea further emboldened African Americans to protest for desegregation in the military, public accommodations, school desegregation and voting rights.”
He quotes Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that we were “paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam.”
When will we get enough?