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The Mocha Manual to Military Life

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African-Americans are the largest ethnic group serving in both active duty and reserve personnel across all branches and units of the military -- therefore, we play a large part in the defense of this nation.

african american soldier

Kimberly Seals Allers: Let's face it: as Black Americans, our love for this country is, in a word, complicated. It's kind of like loving someone who, at one time, beat you, raped you, sold you at auction, and treated you like 3/5ths of a human being. Even after many years of therapy, apologies, and good deeds, there's still a small, lingering pain and distrust there.

Last year, when Michelle Obama was blasted by the media for saying, in effect, that this was the first time in a long time that she was proud of America, every black person knew exactly what she meant.

Despite our mixed feelings for the U.S., African-Americans have always fought for Uncle Sam as soon as we were allowed to do so. In fact, Blacks have a deep connection to the military. My own great-grandfather served in the Army in World War I. Currently, my cousin Jamis, a graduate of West Point, serves as a lieutenant and one of the few active-duty black female helicopter pilots (and certainly the youngest) in the Navy.

And our presence in the army still exceeds our presence in the general population. African-Americans make up 25 percent of all enlisted army soldiers, while making up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. We are the largest ethnic group serving in both active duty and reserve personnel across all branches and units; therefore, we play a large part in the defense of this nation. What's more, the armed forces have long been seen as a key driver for the growth of the black middle class, giving many of our families a solid career, with good benefits and pay.

Given our historic role, I've been really excited this weekend about my third book release, The Mocha Manual to Military Life -- A Savvy Guide for Wives, Girlfriends, and Female Service Members, because it's just what black and Latina women who are supporting their men in military service need. Many bases are located in remote locations where there isn't much "mocha," making it harder to connect to an external community, find a church that feels like home, or establish a comfort level outside the base. And of course, we don't have to tell you the stories of sisters who can't find their favorite hair products or soul food items in their locale. We need those things! (The book has tips on all of the above!)

And since the military community is a microcosm of the greater world, we know that racism exists among the military ranks as it does in the civilian world. That puts extra pressure on our African-American service members, and even more pressure on the wives (and husbands) who support them. This book is particularly necessary, since research proves that we do not typically access resources and services to address emotional and mental scars -- two common by-products of military life.

And that's just the beginning. This week, I'm talking all about military spouses -- and their lives as the true behind-the-scenes heroes at home. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The club-like cliques, the single parenting, the alleged rampant infidelity, plus all the perks.

If you're a woman of color in the military life, tell me your hot-button issue or favorite moment.

next: Backyard BBQ 2.0
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
dean July 9, 2009, 11:10 AM

Funny how you mention racism. Around here when any race goes up against African American for promotion they do not get it, simply because the military is afraid someone will play the race card. Other than that, everyone on this base is treated equally. (In terms of race, now rank is a whole different story.)

CM Jones July 15, 2009, 3:31 PM

Are you a divorcing military spouse or have you researched the issues that pertain to military spouse?

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