Sociologist Warns "Hot Spots" of Inequality In U.S. Military Need to Be Addressed

Release Date: July 28, 1998

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Noted military sociologist Brenda Moore today (July 28, 1998) warned that major problems are the horizon for the U.S. Armed Forces if they don't take steps to reduce racial inequities.

"The military has been exemplary in reducing overt forms of racism like organizational restrictions against minorities," she acknowledged, "and, in fact, blatant forms of racial discrimination in the military have been criminalized.

"There are other forms of racial inequality that continue to be a challenge," she said, "and could ignite into a conflagration if not addressed successfully."

Moore, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the Department of Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, is an associate professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo who specializes in the study of women and minorities in the military.

She made her comments here in a presentation at the third biennial World Wide Equal Opportunity Conference hosted by the Department of Defense. The conference is being attended by 1,500 equal-opportunity specialists and senior leaders from across the department.

In a talk titled "Military Policies, Practices and Results," Moore acknowledged that the Armed Services have made considerable progress since President Harry Truman signed Executive Order No. 9981 in 1948, ordering the integration of the military.

She also pointed out, however, that it took 10 years for the order to be enforced and that the struggle for equal opportunity continues among enlisted men and women throughout the armed services.

o The continuing under-representation of African Americans in the officer corps, despite the fact that they are over-represented in the enlisted ranks.

"Large representative surveys among military personnel also reveal racial discrepancies in their perceptions about the military's equal-opportunity environment," she said. "More than any other group queried, African-American women are least well-satisfied with the Army climate and white women are more satisfied with it than African-American men.

Moore said that Military Equal Opportunity Climate Surveys (MEOCS) indicate that the race of Army men and women queried predicted their perception of equity in the military more than did gender.

"Similarly," she said, "the Navy Equal Opportunity/Sexual Harassment surveys (NEOSH) administered to active-duty Navy personnel in 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1996 have continually found African-American women to be the least satisfied with the Navy's equal-opportunity climate than any other segment of the Navy's population."

As a result of the NEOSH findings, Moore said, the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center and the Equal Opportunity Division of the Bureau of Naval Personnel undertook a series of focus group studies of these women.

"They found that African-American naval personnel perceived there to be a lack of mentors for them, inequities in awards and performance evaluations, racial favoritism and a lack of commitment on the part of Navy leadership to racial issues," she said.

She indicated that these issues are "well-known to the services and there are currently initiatives under way to address them."

A member of the UB faculty since 1988, Moore is the author of the book "To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race," the story of the only group of African-American women who served overseas in the Women's Army Corps during World War II.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To receive a faxed copy of Moore's talk, call Patricia Donovan or Mary Beth Spina at 716-645-2626. Moore can be reached through the afternoon of July 27 at 407-777-8825 (home) or 407-494-2747 (business hours at Patrick Air Force Base, where she is conducting a research project). She will be registered at the Sheraton Hotel in Birmingham from the evening of July 27 through the morning of July 29.

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