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As Columbia students and workers get ready to join the National Student Walkout today in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, my thoughts have obviously been centered around economic injustices lately – whether it’s the arrest of 700 Brooklyn Bridge marchers over the weekend, while bank CEOs who wrecked the economy remain free; or the horrific inequality that leaves 1 in 3 New York City children in poverty while the mayor sits on a $20 billion fortune (and, as NPR pointed out this morning, calls for more budget cuts and a hiring freeze for city agencies); or the foreclosure crisis that has driven millions from their homes, while bank profits soar; or the fact that the government has spent nearly $4 trillion dollars on military spending amidst cutting social services funding.  In thinking about socioeconomic inequalities, we might consider whether Congress’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is indeed a victory for economic justice.

The repeal of DADT is a milestone victory for civil rights, but the fight for equality for ALL (transgendered service members are not covered by DADT and thus still cannot serve openly) has merely begun.  Much work (including 49 major issues) remains to ensure full equality in the military.  So the question then is, what exactly are we fighting for? By focusing on inclusion free from discrimination, are we overlooking the underlying problem(s) with the institution of the military itself?

It is well-known that many people of color, poor, and working-class people join the military for improved access to employment and education opportunities, and given that the military is the country’s largest employer, the repeal of DADT can easily be viewed as a victory for economic justice.  However, militarism and its culture of violence do not serve the interests of LGBT people, as pointed out by various examples from Queers for Economic Justice:

  1. 1. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that about one-third of all homeless people in the US are veterans, but about 1.5 million more veterans are at risk of homelessness “due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.” They also report that 56% of homeless veterans are Black or Latino.
  2. 2. Some studies also show that one in four veterans becomes disabled as a result of physical violence or emotional trauma of war. There are currently 30,000 disabled veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. 3. Rape and sexual violence are very common occurrences for women in the military, and the ACLU and Service Women’s Action Network are currently suing the Pentagon to get the real numbers on reported incidences. Katherine Franke also discusses sexual violence in the military.
  4. 4. Half of the US budget in 2009 was made up of military spending, including current expenditures, veterans benefits and the portion of the national debt caused by military costs, according to the War Resisters’ League. That is more than the U.S. spent on Health & Human Services, Social Security Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Department Education combined.

Now that we’ve won the right to serve openly in the military, let’s remember that U.S. military policies have consistently neglected the interests of LGBT people, poor people, and people of color and while we should celebrate the repeal of DADT we might want to consider, challenge and change systems that create poverty and economic injustice in our communities.

7 comments

  1. New blog post on "Economic (In)Justice and the Military: Perspectives on the DADT “Victory” "http://shar.es/b3sKV

  2. Economic (In)Justice and the Military: Perspectives on the DADT “Victory” http://t.co/fisqsVnq

  3. RT @GenderSexLaw: New blog post on "Economic (In)Justice and the Military: Perspectives on the DADT “Victory” "http://shar.es/b3sKV

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