The recent killing of a British soldier on the streets of London, was a tragic waste of life, not only for the victim, but for the perpetrators as well. It was an unjustifiable act, quite simply. Reviewing the event on the different media outlets, people could not fail to see that it was two young black men of African origin who had committed this calculated attack on a white male. No doubt this clash of ethnicities has caused angst and stirred up racial tensions and prejudices within certain sections of the community. It is no surprise that the E.D.L were churning out their usual misguided patriotic vitriol between mouthfuls of ‘English’ kebab and vindaloo.
There is no getting past the fact that racism played a role in this whole tragedy of events. I am a former United States Marine of mixed ethnicity who grew up in England . I believe that I can comment upon this with some balanced analysis. While I am saddened at the loss of a ‘brother in uniform’ who had a child that he will never get to watch grow up. And, who I am sure shared many cultural similarities, there is, however, an often polarised remark from Malcolm X, which comes to mind; “the chickens have come back to roost”. Why should I bring this remark into play…quite simply because just as we are shocked by the merciless slaying of a white soldier in our own backyard so to speak, shocks us to the core, so should the indiscriminate killing of non-whites by our instruments of war, conjure up the same powerful emotions.
Regardless of whether people in the establishment wish to acknowledge it or not, racism and the dehumanisation of another group or people or cultures, is a fuel utilised by the military institution, to fire up the killer instinct and capabilities which it needs to imbue within recruits to the Army and Marines, probably even in the other branches of service. Throughout my time in the Marines almost from day one, we were groomed to refer to Arabic peoples as haji’s, rag heads…..even going as far as to call them ‘sand coons’. The British being just as culpable with their use of the word ‘chogies’ in similar reference. We would sing bellicose cadences in P.T formation runs about dropping bombs on ‘haji’ women and children! The Marine Corps, for those who are not aware, is a white dominated organisation, with the largest minority group being those of ‘Latino’ background and then an even smaller number of ‘blacks’. Regardless of these dimensions, this kind of illogical racism was infused among all racial groups. Now I am not saying that every individual in the armed forces is a racist bigot…certainly, I would not consider myself so, but that fact that I myself was guilty of uttering such degrading epithets is testament to the force of the institutionalised thinking within the military mindset! I remember years later meeting Joe Glenton and him affirming my issue with the military in this respect when he recalled a story of his deployment to Afghanistan…when he overheard a Black National Guardsman of the U.S Army, refer to an Arab…as a ‘sand nigger’. Sadly the irony was not lost on him. This lunacy is exposed by the fact that my grandfather, an ‘African American’, who served as a Marine in the Korean war, related to me about the sheer degradation that black recruits were subjected to by white drill instructors in Marine Recruit Training in the 1950’s.
My whole point, is to expose the racism which proliferates militarism, and the mindset which governments instil within their warrior class when they go to occupy other people’s nations. There is no getting away from the fact that the murder of the soldier in woolwhich were motivated partly by the current wars we are fighting in the middle east, and the way in which they are conducted. While it cannot justify their actions, we must bring this into mainstream dialogue, regardless of what politicians would want us to believe. The fact that these killers were British born black men, also highlights the point that many young black men in this nation feel marginalised and unrepresented in British society. Can there be any wonder that these incidents play out in their lamentable way.
Chase Sydnor is a British National who served in the United States Marine Corps.
A key component (though not the only component) of my ‘radicalisation’ (actually an ‘enlightenment’) that began with my recruit training as an Australian military conscript for Vietnam in 1972 was the ugly racism that I witnessed. This was not just the overt, crude racism of the ORs regular soldiers (as poignantly exampled by Chase) but also the snooty, oblique, subtle ‘elitist’ racism of the NCOs. And it was not just the racism itself that disgusted me but the insidious mechanisms – subtle, barely perceptible and only identifiable by intelligent observation and deduction as to how this entered the military culture at the top levels and was promoted and encouraged as it percolated down through the ranks (rare occasions when recruits meet training NCOs as ‘equals’ for off-duty drinks or informal ‘pep-talks’ from NCOs).
This is no less deliberate than the exploitation of ‘mateship’ as a military tool, of the inculcation of the notion that ‘real men are silent about the terrors they witnessed’ or more commercially ‘here, mate have a cigarette, it’ll calm ya nerves‘.
It’s important to realise that this is a quite deliberate and purposeful process of exploiting natural inclinations (e.g. to blame an ‘outsider’ – the ‘other’ for one’s woes) by systematic methods that harness them to the military purposes – and also to the other purposes of wider society that serve the privileged elites.