Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Army Allows Blacks to Be All That They Can Be American Society Should Copy Military's Policies, Authors Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Army Allows Blacks to Be All That They Can Be American Society Should Copy Military's Policies, Authors Say

Article excerpt

TWO EXPERTS on military sociology say that to win racial harmony, America should get in step with its Army.

In a new book, they call the Army "an organization unmatched in its level of racial integration . . . unmatched in its broad record of black achievement . . . the only place in American life where whites are routinely bossed around by blacks."

The authors offer theories on why the Army succeeds where the larger society fails. They challenge the society to do it the Army's way.

The book is "All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way," (Basic Books, $24) by Charles C. Moskos of Northwestern University, who is white, and John Sibley Butler of the University of Texas, who is black.

Moskos and Butler looked at the Army because of the four armed services, the Army has not only the most blacks but also by far the largest proportion - 27.2 percent.

Also, they note, the Army has by far the largest share of black officers and sergeants - one reason, they suggest, why the Army has outpaced the other services.

"The quickest way to dispel stereotypes of black incapacity," they write, "is to bring white people into contact with highly qualified Afro-American leaders.

"In the Army, this contact is likely to occur on the first day," when the most racist of recruits meets a drill sergeant who is tough, strong, savvy - and black.

Among the other reasons for the Army's success:

Promotion strictly by talent. The Army insists that its black sergeants and officers stand just as tall as their white colleagues. That way, nobody can grouse that blacks rode their race to the top.

The authors concede that the Army sets numerical goals for black leaders. But if the blacks fall short - as they have in recent years in promotions from captain to major - the Army will live with the shortfall rather than lower its standards.

A pool of blacks in which to find leaders. The authors say a critical mass of blacks is needed if black leaders are to emerge. They note that leading universities compete tooth and nail for talented black students, thus ensuring that no single campus gets a critical mass.

A helping hand through remedial education. While the Army refuses to lower its standards, it lifts many blacks up to those standards. The authors cite four levels of remedial programs, including one that prepares blacks for West Point. Such programs cost a lot but pay off in the long haul, the authors say.

"In poor affirmative action," they write, "an organization promotes less qualified people to buy temporary peace but invites long-term disaffection. The Army was able to accomplish its goal partly because it contained no purportedly liberal constituency willing to accept an initial drop in standards."

An absolute commitment to nondiscriminatory behavior, yet a belief that in other day-to-day dealings, blacks can and must fend for themselves. …

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