Black representation in Gulf criticized

By Jim Tubridy

The U.S. military still is receiving a great deal of criticism that blacks are unfairly over-represented in our troops in the Persian Gulf.

The argument stems from the fact that the percentage of African-Americans in the military is nearly double the national percentage. African-Americans make up 13 percent of the population while the Pentagon estimates 22 percent of the military is African-American.

Locally, African-American students are divided on the issue.

Colleen Halliman, Student Association Academic Affairs Adviser, joined in the criticism.

“I definitely think blacks are over-represented over there (in the Persian Gulf),” she said.

Halliman also disagreed with statements made by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell.

Powell, the first African-American to be named Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was questioned about the allegations by White House reporters. Powell stated the armed forces are entirely made up of volunteers.

“Nobody drafted them,” he said.

BROTHERS Vice President, Chris O’Banner agreed with Powell. “I could see it being unfair if there was a draft,” he said, “(but) it’s a volunteer military.”

O’Banner also said the issue is not how many African-Americans are in the military but why so many have joined.

Lack of economic opportunity has been cited as the reason so many African-Americans join the armed forces.

Walter Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., addressed the issue on a recent Cable News Network segment.

Williams, an African-American, argued the military is the only way for some African-Americans to improve their economic condition.

“Are you suggesting we should limit the number of blacks allowed in the armed forces because there is a greater percentage of us there than in the country as a whole?” he asked.

In a phone interview, Williams stated the energy devoted to this condemnation could be better served in improving conditions within black communities.

“They should concentrate on improving public school systems in the inner cities,” he said. “That would eliminate the need for them (inner-city blacks) to join the military for better opportunities.”