Open Letter to U.S. Veterans and Active-Duty Service Members (2016)

Why am I writing to you separately when I know that our military is, for better or worse, a microcosm of the nation?

   The answer is simple. I know from experience—twenty years in the U.S. Navy—that racism exists also within the military ranks.

   It would be naïve for anyone to think that we can escape racism. But we can learn about it; we can acquire some knowledge on the subject. This should, in turn, help us in our interactions with others.

   As a “military person,” you cannot help but get used to working with people from all walks of life: other military, civilians, Arabs, Asians, Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, Whites.

I know firsthand that if you stayed in the service long enough, you would probably get the opportunity to serve overseas, where you cannot help but make the acquaintance of someone of a difference “race”—if you did not become a base rat, that is. Base rat designates someone who chooses to stay on base rather than venture off it and risk running into someone from the host-nation, a “foreigner”.

I guess the above was my long-winded way of saying that even if you had isolationist or nationalistic tendencies before you joined, serving—or having served—in the military (even if only four years) probably made it possible for you to go beyond the shores of our nation, which should have allowed you to meet people who were different from you, people with, say, a different mother tongue. In so doing, you made, perhaps, the happy discovery that those people, despite their looking different from you and speaking in a different language, were pretty much like you and me. You may have even become friends with some of them once you got to know them. If that is the case, I encourage you to go out and share your experience with your American neighbors, or with anyone else who has not had the fortune of traveling overseas and meeting new people.



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