Youth of Color Resist Military Recruiting

Source: Dollars and Sense

In 2006, high school senior Stephanie Hoang started working with Better Alternatives for Youth-Peace (BAYPeace), educating her peers about the potential risks of joining the military and helping to build alternative education and employment opportunities. For Hoang, her truth-in-recruitment work is more than just an internship. “It’s my peers being affected. [Recruiters] are looking at me and thinking that I’m the person they want in the military.”

More than just looking at Hoang and her peers, military recruiters today have unprecedented access to students and youth, particularly in poor neighborhoods. “There are generally more army recruiters on campus than college counselors,” explains Elmer Roldan, fundraising director at Community Coalition in South Central Los Angeles, “and a more aggressive strategy to militarize them than to prepare them for college.” He notes that recruiters target the best and brightest students, particularly young women.

In spite of this access, the number of recruits rose only slightly between 2005 and 2007, and the share of Black and Latino recruits fell. Community organizations including BAY-Peace and Community Coalition contributed to this drop-off through their truth-in-recruitment work. As Ann Lennon of the Carolina American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) explains, “The military sometimes makes promises that it can’t keep; it’s important to know which ones they can.” AFSC put together a series of questions potential recruits can ask to help them separate myth from fact in areas such as job training, funds for education, and post-traumatic stress disorder and other potential consequences of combat.

But in 2008, as the economic crisis took a firm hold, recruitment numbers began to rise. “Jobs with stability are rarities,” Lennon explains. “Options are narrowing and we have people that may have been in the work force that are now thinking about going into the military.” In 2008, 185,000 men and women signed up for military service -the highest number since 2003. Many of the new recruits come from the groups hardest hit by the crisis. The National Priorities Project report on FY2008 Army recruiting reveals that with unemployment climbing to 7.6% last year-and to 12.6% in the Black community-the steepest climb in recruiting came from lower-middle-class neighborhoods with median incomes in the $40,000 range. Black recruits account for over 95% of the increase over 2007 in overall Army recruitment numbers. Black and Native American women were recruited at high rates: around a quarter of recruits from these groups were women, compared to only about 14% of white recruits.

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