During the Vietnam War, sixteen percent of black Americans were being sent out to Vietnam to fight in the war. At this time, there was a Negro Revolution in which many black Americans were seeking liberation. In Eldridge Cleaver’s, The Black Man’s Stake in Vietnam, he talks about the importance of uniting the colored people of this world—African, Asian, and Latino. Through collective identity and collective action, the people of color will be able to combat injustices they experience by the white man. Cleaver makes a good point when he says that black Americans should not be fighting with the oppressor in the Vietnam War, but instead they should be fighting alongside the Vietnamese in their fight for freedom. Many ethnic groups at this time were facing the same struggles and the only way to tackle these problems was through collective action. Each race must help each other out in their fight for freedom so that they can all be free. Cleaver talks about the white man being the common problem and that we must always fight against the white man. Cleaver makes another great point when he talks about the white man using black troops to make the oppressed hate the black Americans. He refers to the white man as “ugly” and that the white man must make the blacks look “ugly” too. By sending them out to fight in the Vietnam War, it kills two birds with one stone for the white man. The Vietnamese will feel more anger towards the black man since he is fighting with the white man. This is the exact reason Cleaver is so adamant about collective identity among the colored people. In Wallace Terry’s, The Angry Blacks in the Army, we see that the black Americans that were interviewed feel the same way about the white man. They understand that they should be fighting against the white man, not with him. They understand that they should not be fighting in the Vietnam War because it will do nothing for them. The racism and injustices they faced in America before the war will still be there when they return. Terry shows in his findings that many blacks were willing to used armed force when they returned to America after the war. This was the only way they knew how to get what they want. The mentality was that they were fighting with these weapons to help America get what it wants in the war, so it should be the same when they fight for their rights and against injustices in America. The result of the built racial tension throughout the war was fatal. There were many beatings and killings of the whites by the black troops and vice-versa. The whites did not realize that the black man knew his position. He knew what he was being told to do by the white man and knew what the real intention was. He knew that by putting his life on the line in this war was not going to fix anything back home in America. Terry shares the importance of having black leaders speak out for the rest of the black community in opportunities to get their freedom. Both Cleaver and Terry knew their positions as black men and knew how important it was for the black community to engage in the fight for freedom as a collective with nonwhites rather than fighting the white man alone.
Many white and black males were drafted into the Vietnam War to fight against the spread of communism from the Vietcong and their stories and commemorations have been recognized after the war ended. But what the United States of America have failed to seize and recognize was the truth about other ethnic minority groups who fought alongside the United States. Disappeared Men: Chicana/o Authenticity and the American War in Viet Nam, written by John Alba Cutler, revisits the Chicana/o war literature through different views of Chicana/o repression, sexualization, and gender differentiation during the Vietnam War. The article also seeks to find “authenticity” within Chicano males who were drafted into the war. It states that finding “authenticity” in the Chicana/o identity can be found through bodily violence and in which finding Chicano masculinity is prevalent through the endurance of the Vietnam War. Then, the article composes the idea of revolution for the Chicana/o community by achieving first-class status through the Vietnam War but later dismissed the Chicana/o authenticity. Although it may not discuss much of attaining a world revolution, Ernesto Che Guevara wrote his message, Vietnam and the World Struggle for Freedom, to the Tricontinental (Americas, Asia, and Africa) as a way to voice and empower individuals about the wrongs and negative effects of the U.S. involvement within these continents. Guevara openly shared his pride and justice for the people who had struggled to revolt and find freedom for their country. Guevara is not just an activist but a leader who left behind his legacy for all people of color and anti-war civilians. His message directly explained U.S. involvement only causes more destruction on civilians and only causing more hate and enemies. Although Guevara examined how the Vietnam War will only generate more hate and destruction, Cutler opposed the war on enlisting inexperienced minority groups into the war when the populations of minority groups are already so low. These two articles examined different perspectives and topics but ultimately, both of these two activists focused on how the Vietnam War was used as propaganda for the United States to notoriously gain power, authority, and status.
How did communities of color in the U.S. react to the Viet Nam War?
They reacted in outrage to racial injustice on the warfront, that black men are sent to war in much larger numbers and that they were being made to fight a war for “freedom” when they did not receive civil rights for themselves. They also reacted to socioeconomic injustice in the sense that the war was draining resources that could alleviate poverty at home. MLK also called out the irony of war when communities of color fought for non violence and racial reconciliation at home. He explained his position on the war as an extension of his fight for civil rights, global justice, and care for the poor through nonviolence, and he called out the hypocrisy of the US in fighting for freedom but using military action against revolution. He called to end the war and protest drafting and for a reversal of harmful values of greed and power that lead to war and exploitation. He also went so far as to urge for understanding between enemies and that America was headed for its doom if it did not reconsider its actions. In this audio clip, you may listen to this sermon, which was not one of Dr. King’s most famous speeches, but was all encompassing of what he fought for and in many ways put him in the crossfire.
African American racism and slavery in the US is much like a type of internal colonization of African Americans on the ways they are dominated and exploited by another culture. There were riots (or revolutions) and efforts to reclaim the ghetto, which was controlled by outsiders or colonizers, and replace them with those from and for the community. In such a way, they were fighting their colonization by putting blacks in places of influence and claiming their power to make their own decisions. This has a parallel to some of the themes of the Vietnam War in which Vietnam had been struggling for its independence for thousands of years in order to govern themselves but was still at the mercy of decisions made by nations of more power and resources.
1) How does the intersection of gender roles and authenticity construct and enable individuals to fight for their own country? In what ways has it helped Vietnam?
3) Blauner asserts that “...violence is almost inevitable to the decolonization process,” whereas King urges for nonviolence protest. Which do you believe is more effective or realistic for these processes of resistance?
4) What do you think would be the result if collective identity among colored people around the world was very strong? Would the white man lose in every war? Would it cause the white man to lose power and status and become the worldwide enemy?
5) If blacks had not been drafted into the Vietnam War, do you think that it would have helped them in their fight for freedom? Would the racial tension/violence between the whites and blacks be different? Would this idea of collective identity among colored people be less emphasized among different ethnic groups?
By: Jenny Lee, Hanh Nguyen, and June Fabillaran