Federal government, DOD have led way toward equality

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In 2008 while on the campaign trail for her husband, then Sen. Barack Obama, Michelle Obama said, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”
She said that in the context of her husband running for president and his change platform. She was also heavily criticized for making that statement.

When I heard her say that I had to ask myself what does that mean? Have I ever felt that way? Sadly the answer was yes. There have been times when I haven’t been proud of my country because its history and treatment of African-Americans. And at times it has been contentious.

African-Americans have endured racism and haven’t always been treated equal to their white counterparts. Although there have been instances when society wasn’t totally accepting of African-Americans, the federal government and the Department of Defense were setting the example of equal treatment.

After Reconstruction the implementation of Jim Crow laws prohibited African-Americans from using the same facilities as white. This was the law of the land until 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act which banned this type of treatment.

Before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, DOD through a War Department directive on March 10, 1943, directed Army posts to be desegregated. This was five years before President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces with Executive Order 9981 in 1948.

The federal government and DOD’s equal treatment didn’t stop there. African-Americans comprise 17.2 percent of the workforce in the federal government, according to opm.gov 2015 statistics. This number is also due to the federal government being one of the first to integrate African-Americans into its workforce.

The federal government employs 10.3 of African-American women and 7.4 of African-American men, according to opm.gov. This percentage is significant because African-Americans are 14.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Prior to the formation of DOD, African-Americans were serving in American wars beginning with the Revolutionary War. In fact the first person to perish during that war was Crispus Attucks who was killed in the Boston massacre.

Since DOD has led the way toward equality, African-Americans continue to serve. African-Americans comprise 16.8 percent of the Army.

Prior to joining the military I would often hear arguments about African-Americans not having a place in the Army or any of the military services. But I always thought that argument wasn’t true because advancing in the military has nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin. It’s always been up to an individual. When I talk to my younger cousins and nephew I tell them while the Army isn’t for everyone, I truly believe it to be the best equal opportunity employer.

Although the road to equality hasn’t been an easy one, I’ve gone from being a disappointed young person to a more mature women who has appreciated those who came before me. I also understand those sacrifices because I’ve benefited from the struggles of my predecessors. When I raised my right hand to protect and defend the Constitution, something I’ve done a few times, I never thought the color of my skin would be a hindrance because I was working for an employer who believed in equal treatment, and at the forefront of showing the rest of society what right looks like.