Race Relations Within the US Military

James Burk, Texas A&M University
Publication Date:
Jan 2012
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

Sociologists now often say that the US military is a model of good race relations. Although there is no denying progress made in military race relations, especially since establishment of the all-volunteer force, this review challenges that comfortable claim as research done over the past two decades supports it only in part. Instead, we conclude that disparities in military allocations of goods and burdens sometimes disadvantage racial minorities. This conclusion rests on a review of institutional analyses in five arenas to which researchers have paid close attention: racial patterns in enlistment, officer promotion rates, administration of military justice, risk of death in combat, and health care for wounded soldiers. Although not a direct or intended result of military policy and practice, in three of five cases there was evidence of racial bias and institutional racism. Further work is needed to identify mechanisms through which the bias and racism arose.


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