The Real Issue


WE ARE in fundamental agreement with the majority--the military draft is unnecessary, and more importantly counterproductive, a display of militarism that can only get our nation in trouble.

But we are distressed by one section of their argument. In arguing against the fact that a draft would more equitably balance the nation's military, they insist that "racial representation becomes an important issue only when lives are at stake, when minorities and the poor do more than their share of the fighting."

In the first place, if Blacks, Hispanics and other racial minorities are overrepresented in a peacetime army, they will be overrepresented in wartime as well, especially in an age where wars are likely to be "small" conflicts like the one in El Salvador where only a few soldiers are needed. It is a problem of equity that must be resolved long before the tanks roll, as they almost inevitably will.

But much more importantly, racial representation in the military is an important issue because of what it symbolizes. There are more than a proportional number of Blacks and Hispanics in the armed forces, in the industrial labor force, employed as domestic workers and on unemployment. On average, Blacks earn only a little more than half of what whites do. And those discrepancies represent the single most important domestic issues America faces. To pretend, as the majority does, that they can be dismissed as too global or too hopeless a concern is lazy and defeatist.

There are solutions for injustice in America; they include the redistribution of wealth and resources, and an end to paralysing discrimination. Those will not be easy goals to achieve--they have tormented America for generations. But they will come sooner if we stop sticking our heads in the sand, if we stop wishing that our deepest societal sicknesses were not "important."


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