Black Veterans Matter

When the troops came home from World War II, they were met with much fanfare.  But there were vets who weren’t celebrated by America. Black veterans were not given the support they needed to begin their lives as civilians.  They were denied money for college and purchasing a home.  These funds were given freely to white veterans who were able to buy homes, go to school and get jobs, and begin to build wealth for themselves and their families.  There was a deliberate plan by politicians of the South to exclude Black people and keep the Jim Crow laws intact. People of color weren’t allowed to make progress, to get ahead, to build wealth for their families and communities.  No matter how heroically these men fought, they were denied even the medals that they earned. A significant number of vets were dishonorably discharged so they could not qualify for these benefits.  The language of the law was race neutral, but the criteria was such that they made sure Blacks were outright rejected and if they tried to buy a nice home, they were told the neighborhood was closed to them.  The consequences of these policies are still felt today.  Don’t be fooled.  The exclusion of people of color in all the systems of the world exists today, but they’ve learned to use wording that is not blatantly racist.  The power brokers know how to continue to exclude people of color without looking like they are.  Jim Crow is alive and well.

The following story is found in the book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.  A Black veteran of World War Two, Sergeant Isaac Woodard, Jr.,  served his country well and was honorably discharged. He fought in the Pacific Theater. Sargent Woodard was riding to his home in North Carolina on a Greyhound bus. At one of the bus stops, he wanted to use the restroom.  The bus driver said he couldn’t, that they had no time.  He was resistant, stating that he was a man just the same as the bus driver.  He had been out of the country for three years, away from Jim Crow and he had “taken on a degree of assertiveness and self-confidence that most southern whites were not prepared to accept,” said author and judge Richard Gergel.  The bus driver backed down and let him go.  But at the next stop, the driver called the police and had him arrested on charges of disorderly conduct.  At the stop and later in jail, the sergeant was beaten with a billy club and had his eyes jabbed by the same billy club.  He received no medical care until later, but by then it was too late to save his eyesight. The other reason given for his arrest was that he didn’t say “sir” to the sheriff. 

The sheriff was found not guilty of assault.  When the verdict came in, there were cheers.  Listen to what ethnographer Bertram Schrieke wrote:  “If a Negro rises, he will be careful not to be conspicuous, lest he be accused of putting on airs and thus arouse resentment.  Experience for example has taught him that competition and jealousy from the lower classes of whites often form an almost unsurpassable obstacle to his progress.”  This has proven true on many occasions, even as recent as President Obama.  Instead of welcoming what people of color can bring to the table, White society finds clever and devious ways to try to keep POC outside of the places of power and influence. The mindset of superiority hasn’t changed.  In God’s kingdom the only one superior is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who welcomes all who believe into His presence to share in His love and grace.  There is no oppression or suppression, only openness and acceptance, allowing us the space to grow and be a blessing to the world He created.

“…He (Christ) is first in everything.” Colossians 1:18