The Racism I Endured During Military Service Shouldn't Shock You

Do you have any idea how much racist crap I saw while I was in uniform?
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Angel Rodriguez USAF Basic Training Photo
Angel Rodriguez USAF Basic Training Photo
Angel Rodriguez

It is my impression that some people believe that when you put on a military uniform, that you stop being black, that you stop being latino, that you stop being gay or that you stop being a woman.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that were truly the case? It would be pretty awesome if every person that put on a uniform was viewed as a soldier, each one equal to the other. Remember that scene from the movie “Full Metal Jacket,” where Gunny says, “I do not discriminate against anyone here! Here, you are all equally worthless.” Well, that would be nice, if it were true.

The problem is that it is not true. Do you have any idea how much racist crap I saw while I was in uniform? Racist things were said directly to me, while wearing my uniform in Texas. The heart of America, the patriotic capital of the U.S. ― yet they disrespected my nationality and called me racist slurs while I was in uniform.

Do you think that wearing that uniform makes the hateful ones accept you? Does it make the racists stop calling black people “n*****s,” or latinos “sp**s?” It doesn’t! You want to know how I know this? Not only because I saw it, but as I just mentioned, I experienced it myself. The boys down in Wichita, Texas didn’t take too kindly to me visiting one of their establishments. They made it known that I had an invitation to leave before something bad happened to my “Northern, Yankee, sp*c-ass.” All this occurred, while I was in uniform! Can you believe that?

Do you think that I’m making this up? Cause I am not. I saw black men called “n*****s” by fellow soldiers. Men who were wearing the same uniform DURING basic training. Those racists made sure that they didn’t leave their bigotry back home. Do you think that they cared about the uniform the black man wore? Do you think they cared that we all stood side by side as we pledged allegiance to our flag? Do you think they gave a damn when we all stood up with our hands over our hearts for the national anthem? News flash, they didn’t care then, and they still don’t know.

But they do care when someone takes a knee. How dare they!

You wanna talk about us respecting a song and a flag? What about respecting the actual man in the uniform? Or the woman who’s in it? Don’t even get me started on the sexual harassment I witnessed and reported back then. Don’t get me started on how I almost broke a staff sergeant’s face for disrespecting a woman who also wore the same uniform in my presence. Don’t get me started on the recruiters who were transferred from their stations for hitting on recruits and poolees. Don’t get me going on the many cases of reported and unreported rapes that are swept under the rug by the top brass.

Yet, taking a knee during the song is what is offensive to you. That’s offensive to veterans. Well, what about when a veteran does it because of their experiences in uniform, and in the country?

Once again, not only have I read about these things, I witnessed them and was around for some of it. Read up on Staff Sergeant Pedro Tollinchi, convicted of raping a recruit while representing the uniform. This was after he was transferred out of my original recruiting station for sexually harassing my then girlfriend who was also enlisting.

Yet, you insist on pretending, and having us act like we are all equal, like everything is perfect, and this nation or it’s service members can do no wrong! Give me a freaking break!

Yes, men and women who wore the uniform will protest, they will speak up against inequalities and abuses by the nation and those in power. Just because you put on the uniform, it doesn’t change who you are, or how you are viewed by the world. Just because you condemn the wrong doing of some, doesn’t mean you are attacking them all.

I’m a veteran, I love my fellow veterans. But do not fool yourself into thinking that just because I wore that uniform, I stopped being a “sp*c” to some people in this country. Those are the ones that we are protesting against, not you, not the veterans who fought and died for us. We are protesting the people who would see us dead before ever giving us an ounce of respect. We are protesting those people, so stop treating it as though we are attacking you, or others like you. None of this applies to you, unless you are one of those people I mentioned before. Stop twisting the intent, that doesn’t help anyone.

I know I was all over the place on this piece, that’s why I called it a rant. I also know that several portions of this piece could become it’s own blog post.

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