The U.S. military is currently the most ethnically diverse force in the history of the Republic, while African-American women are the fastest growing segment across the various armed services. African-American women now make up approximately 31 percent of all females in the armed forces, representing double the percentage of blacks (13 percent) in the U.S. civilian population as a whole. White women, on the other hand, make up only 53 percent of all females under arms, even while whites represent 77 percent of America’s population.
According to Defense Manpower Research, 74.6 percent of the military is white, 25.4 percent represent minorities, 17.8 are black, while 7.6 percent are designated as “Other.” The statistics for the Marine Corps are distinct: 83.7 percent are white, 16.3 percent are minority, 11.1 percent are black, and 5.2 percent are “Other.” Of the six armed services listed, only the Coast Guard (6.1 percent) had a lower percentage of blacks under arms. Also, as of November 2015, 14 percent of enlisted were female, while 15.3 percent of the officer corps were female, according to DMR.
Jason Johnson of The Root, a website that reports on trends in the African-American community, wrote: “In other words, black women in the military make up the largest group of minorities employed by any branch of the federal government. Imagine if the FBI were 31 percent black women, or the Department of Education. If the Environmental Protection Agency were 31 percent African-American women, I suspect that residents of Flint, Mich., wouldn’t have to rely on celebrity water donations to bathe their children safely.”
Johnson wrote that none of the current presidential candidates have sought the votes of black women in the military, while pointing out that Sen. Bernie Sanders is a member of Committee on Veterans Affairs and that Donald Trump frequently pays tribute to vets and members of the military. Pointing out the importance of veterans in the current presidential contest, John noted that states such as Florida, North Carolina and Virginia have the highest concentration of active and retired military voters.
He also wrote that black veterans and members of the military are not beyond the reach of the Republican Party, even while the Democratic Party has been the traditional home of black voters in general. Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is a retired Navy Lt. Commander, while Kentucky’s Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton is a retired Air Force captain. In the case of Carroll, she was the first African-American Republican female to serve in the Florida legislature. She was appointed Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs by Gov. Jeb Bush, and was later appointed by President George W. Bush to the Commission on Presidential Scholars and then a seat on the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission.
The Obama administration has actively sought votes among black female warriors. For example, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden inaugurated the Joining Forces initiative to address the needs of military families, while focusing on health and child care. Citing statistics, Johnson said that this was a “brilliant campaign move by the Obamas, because 47 percent of active duty black military women are more likely to have children than any whites (30 percent) or Hispanics (37 percent).
Another smooth move for Obama was in modifying the Army's regulations regarding women’s hair in 2014. Johnson wrote that the change eliminated “some of the previous hair standards that were racially biased and onerous for black women on active duty.” When the change in regulations was first announced, many critics immediately denounced it as "racist." A petition to alter the regulations yet again was signed by thousands and given to the White House. Eventually, the military relented and allowed various twists and braids for female soldiers, sailors, and marines. Attention female Marines: Lock and twist hairstyles are now authorized.
For example, in November 2015 the Marine Corps Uniform Board 215 determined the additional hairstyle options are professional and neat in appearance, and may be easier for some female Marines to maintain in an expeditionary environment. The commandant agreed and the the new rules were announced in Marine administrative message. The changes were driven by the recommendations of Staff Sgt. Cherie Wright, who is a member of the II Marine Expeditionary Force. She told Marine officials that “for some, this change is culturally liberating, has financial benefits, and is simply convenient.”
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