Discuss the relationship between the African- American community and the Vietnam War.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that there was an uneasy relationship between African- Americans and the Vietnam War.  On one hand, African- Americans saw the war in a patriotic context, like so many others who enlisted.  African- Americans believed it to be their duty to sign up for the war, something that was enhanced with Johnson's passage of the Civil Rights Act, something that convinced them that a cause for America was one worth fighting for.  Yet, the reality that awaited African- Americans was one in which they faced significant discrimination in military units when stationed.  The perception that African- Americans were "lesser" in quality of the military personnel was enhanced by the idea that many people of color who were serving were results of the "lowered standards" for recruits.  This resulted in African- American soldiers being assigned to menial labor or the most dangerous of combat missions, contributing to a very high casualty count in the conflict.  As the conflict became more nebulous in terms of mission and definition of victory, African- Americans believed that they were being made out to be both the patsy as well as the ultimate victim, as African- American casualty count was disproportionately higher than any other group in conflict.  For a group that still faced significant discrimination back home, to go abroad and find little reprieve from such prejudice helped to further resentment in African- Americans regarding both the war and the nation they represented in it.

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