Honoring our Veterans: Forgotten History
In history, black veterans have been a threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service. Black veterans who fought for our country often lost their lives after returning home by those they risked their lives to protect.
The GI Bill helped foster a long-term in white wealth but did almost nothing to help build black wealth
Black veterans from the South benefited the least from the Readjustment Act of 1944 (GI Bill), signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on June 22, 1944. The bill laid the foundation for benefits that would help generations of veterans achieve social mobility that aimed to help World War II military personnel return to civilian life with low-interest mortgages, loans, and unemployment benefits. Many Black who served in World War II never saw these benefits.
There are lots of reasons why white Americans have so much more wealth than nonwhites. Southern banks and mortgage agencies refused loans to minorities. Many southern public universities refused black students’ admission. White veterans got into college with ease, black veterans faced limited options and denial in their pursuit of education. It was only seven states offered post-baccalaureate education to black students, and no accredited engineering or doctoral programs were available to them. The bill increased the number of black veterans attending HBCUs from 1.08 percent in 1940 to 3.6 percent in 1950. The educational and economic gaps between white and black veterans nationally widened.
Black veterans weren’t able to make use of the housing provisions of the GI Bill. White people were able to use the government guaranteed housing loans from this bill to buy homes in the suburbs where Blacks were excluded from the suburbs due to racism. Those homes subsequently increased greatly in value future decades, creating new household wealth for whites during the postwar era.
After the new GI Bill passed in 2008, twenty percent of GI Bill disbursements go to for-profit schools. These schools have a reputation for high dropout rates and are known for targeting students of color, a significant point given the growing racial and ethnic diversity of the military.
Black Homeless Veterans
Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness, especially if they have low socioeconomic status, a mental health disorder, and a history of substance abuse.
Fifty-six percent of all homeless veterans who served in wars ranging from World War II until Iraq and Afghanistan are Black American or Hispanic. However, Black Americans make up over thirty-four percent of the total number of homeless veterans. “Forty-seven percent served during the Vietnam era while seventeen percent served post-Vietnam, and fifteen percent served pre-Vietnam, respectively.” According to a report conducted by the U.S. Interagency Council on the Homeless.
Over 500 organizations are funding by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist homeless veterans. These organizations help veterans with substance abuse, counseling, stable housing, personal access to healthcare, and employment assistance.
The VA served more than 92,000 homeless veterans in 2009. With an estimated 500,000 veterans homeless at some time during the year, the VA reaches 20% of those in need, leaving 400,000 veterans without supportive services. The Department of Labor has about 120 employment assistance programs that help veterans with training and employment preparation assistance.