Racial Issues during the Vietnam War and in the US Today
As an aside, the concern over proportional representation in racial service and casualty numbers is not reflected in the representation Burns chose to apply to the Vietnam Veterans in proportion to the Vietnam Veterans against the War interviewees in this production.
In regard to race relations, while blacks served in every American War since the American revolution, the Vietnam War was the first time blacks and whites were integrated into combat units. In each of America's wars, the latest wave of immigrants served side-by-side with those born in this country. They lived together, ate together, fought together, died together and bled the same color of blood. When the wars ended, they found that the brotherhood thus earned overcame any hurdles put up by society at large. The Vietnam War provided the same acceptance to blacks and hispanics. The Burns video repeatedly shows blacks, whites and hispanics working together in combat situations. The idea that blacks died in a higher proportion than their number in the general population during the early years of the war may have had to do with their propensity for volunteering for the elite units. (It would be appropriate to recall that a Japanese-American unit in World War II was one of the most, if not the most decorated units of that war.) Many soldiers, black and white, can recall that basic training may have been their first exposure to the other race. The denigration of Vietnam service by the Anti-war movement and the U.S. media industry as a whole did a disservice to the opportunity for harmony that Vietnam service afforded our society.
The latter years of the war did see increasing racial animosities, particularly in rear areas, but I suspect this was an importation of attitudes from the now dis-harmonized youth culture in America, rather than conditions in either the military or in Vietnam.
This is a "stump" essay which will be revisited when time permits.