Friday, March 19, 2010

DADT and Desegregation of the Armed Forces

I was originally writing something up on the conservative response to Lt. Dan Choi’s arrest when I wrote this sentence: “If conservatives want us to stop equating their homophobia to the racism that the civil rights movement experienced, they should stop using the same talking points.” I decided to write the following instead of a typical conservatives-freak-out-at-liberal-activism post.

Let us play a game. I am going to give you a quote about the bigotry of the armed forces. I will redact all names, dates, and any words along the lines of "homosexual", "gay", "sexual orientation", "black", "negro", "race." You try to guess what kind of bigot these perfectly rational arguments came from, homophobic or racist! Sounds fun, right?

Come out and play... (answers below, no cheating, no google)
1) "Somehow we think the United States Armed Forces can thrive in their true mission — fighting wars and protecting our shores — without being diverted into the dubious business of [redacted] 'pride'."

2) "To change would destroy morale and impair preparations for national experiments should be tried . . . at this critical time."

3) This proposal "would be tantamount to solving a social problem which has perplexed the American people throughout the history of this nation. The Army cannot accomplish such a solution and should not be charged with the undertaking."

4) "Experiments to solve social problems would be 'fraught with danger to efficiency, discipline, and morale'."

5) "The Army is not a sociological laboratory; to be effective it must be organized and trained according to the principles which will insure success. Experiments to meet the wishes and demands of the champions of [redacted] for the solution of their problems are a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat."

6) "A [redacted] survey of...Army personnel revealed that 32% completely opposed [redacted], and 61% opposed [redacted] if it meant that [redacted] would share sleeping quarters and mess halls.
Can you guess which of those quotes are about desegregating the military and which are about repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?

I will give you a hint, only one of them are about DADT. Can you guess which one? Not too easy, right? Here are the answers:
1) Peter LeBarbera responding to Lt. Dan Choi's arrest.

2-5) Defense Studies Series: Integration of The Armed Forces 1940-1965 by Morris J. MacGregor, Jr.

6) Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S. Military: Historical Background (the quote I took happens to be from the section on the desegregation of the armed forces)
LGBT rights advocates often take a lot of crap for comparing the two human rights movements. Yet the argument that the two movements are incomparable is as grounded in reason as claiming they are without differences. While the struggles and specific hindrances differ greatly, the underlying hatred is the same. The fear of a people unknown is the same. The bigots’ arguments, devoid of merit as they are, are the same.

Did desegregation of the armed forces disrupt unit cohesion, as many military experts warned would happen? Not in combat zones. Did African Americans continue to experience prejudice in the armed forces? Absolutely. Was there majority support amongst the armed forces for desegregation? No. Was there majority support amongst civilians for desegregation? No. Was there a fear that desegregation could have a negative impact on the best armed forces in the world? You bet your ass there was. Was there a fear amongst white soldiers of sharing quarters with people of a difference race? Indeed. Was desegregation the right thing to do, even if all those fears came true? Damn straight.

It was the right decision, if for no other reason than this: “Serving with Blacks appeared to make White soldiers more accepting of integration.” If serving with open homosexuals will make straight soldiers more accepting of differing sexual orientations, that would be a beautiful thing.
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