If you have been following the Veterans Law Blog® facebook page for the last 2 weeks, you will have seen daily posts covering Black history, civil rights history, and the experiences of Black veterans in America.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with Veterans Law,” said one white veteran. “Why don’t you go back to writing about that?”
Eventually, I will.
But for the time being, there are some really important things the Veterans Law Blog® needs to do.
We have a problem with racism against Black veterans.
As white and Black alike took to the streets to protest police brutality against Black Americans, many businesses (even NASCAR and the NFL, surprisingly) have take steps to condemn or start to dismantle the systematic oppression of Black people.
In the veterans community, though, the silence has been deafening. None of the “Big 6” Veterans Service Organizations have said a word about the challenges and discrimination that Black veterans confront not just in their communities, but at the VA as well.
Some white dude at the Disabled American Veterans issued a tepid and tone-deaf condemnation of “civil unrest.”
Read the facebook feed of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and you will have no idea that our nation is coalescing on a broad and strong effort to wipe out racism, racist people, and racist systems.
The American Legion issued a statement on June 12, 2020. The statement was a milquetoast “tsk-tsk” about violations of equality under the law, without a single mention of the systematic oppression of Black veterans and Black communities.
No veterans law firms are talking about race or the issues that Black veterans face.
In fact, I could find only one law firm – the law firm of Attig | Curran | Steel – that took a pledge to condemn racism, and to condemn the systematic oppression of Black people.
At the same time, I saw in the comments on the VLB Facebook page a shocking number of racist white veterans. Some were merely dismissive of the Black experience in America or the experiences of Black Veterans. Some were just echoing the vile words of a white man who lives in a white house who makes them feel special because they are white. And a substantial number were rude, violent, and threatening in their language and their ideas.
In 2014, I wrote a piece condemning a NYT op-ed piece about racism in the veterans community. Seeing, these last two weeks, the sheer volume of white veterans who are the definition of racist, white supremacist, or just plain ignorant about civil rights, I deeply regret that article, and have removed it from this site.
I apologize to the author, Kathleen Belew, for my criticism. I was wrong, and you were right. There is a racism problem in the veterans community.
The systematic oppression of Black people is visited even upon our Black brothers and sister veterans – even those who shared a foxhole with us.
What to do about it though?
In a word, I don’t know. But I do know three things.
#1: Some of you are not going to like what is coming next.
Since some of you will not be happy about the direction the Veterans Law Blog® is taking, let’s be clear about one thing.
I am not worried about losing a following on social media. I am not worried about losing subscriptions on this page. I’m not in this for the money or the fame, so threaten all the boycotts and bad reviews you want – I will not be quiet until the last white man takes his knee off the neck of our Black brother and sister veterans
I have banned over 1,831 overtly racist and white supremacist veterans from the Veterans Law Blog® facebook page in the past 12 days.
A few of you may cancel your subscriptions to this blog because you just can’t acknowledge racism in the military and veterans community. To the small number of folks who unfollow the VLB on social media, or to the dozen or so of you who have cancelled your subscriptions, I say this.
I don’t care that you are leaving. I am happy to see you go. I will not sit down. I will not keep quiet. I will challenge veterans to think beyond their current limitations.
If that is something you can’t hang with, please just go. I will give no quarter to racism or racists.
#2: The Veterans Law Blog® has always taking point on systemic change in the Veterans Advocacy Community.
In 2007, this blog was the first – and only – blog that detailed the law and procedure of VA disability compensation claims. Now, every law firm that is serious about representing veterans has a law blog on their website. This blog’s catalog of educational material about VA claims and appeals is so substantial and extensive that even judges in our community read this blog or watch the videos on YouTube.
From 2007 – 2012, I taught thousands of veterans how to use the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of their C-files. So many of you used that process that the VA was overloaded with C-File requests. Though not the only factor, the VA had to accelerate their plans to digitize their VA claims record repositories to fulfill those requests more quickly. Today, attorneys can log into the VA’s database directly to see their clients’ claims and appeals.
When the Veterans Community needed change, the Veterans Law Blog® has always taken point.
But, since 2017, I have struggled to chart a course for the direction of the Veterans Law Blog®. I do not see myself writing about VA claims and appeals until I die, but at the same time, the Veterans Law Blog® has always been a passion project of mine. I am not ready to let it go, but I am ready for it to chart a new course.
In short, I believe that there is so much more to say and do in the veterans community, in the work of helping our brothers and sisters reintegrate into the civilian lives they placed on hold to serve the country.
#3: The Veterans Law Blog® has a massive platform.
The Veterans Law Blog® has a massive platform. Across all our vectors – Facebook, YouTube, Email, search engines, etc, – the Veterans Law Blog® reaches 1/4 million veterans every month. The Veterans Law Blog® is a massive megaphone – a massive platform.
Beyond just having a platform, the Veterans Law Blog® has connections. The VLB has relationships with state and county VSOs, veterans lawyers, accredited VA agents, individuals inside the VA, VA Central Office and the BVA, and the VLB has recently begun outreach to state and federal legislative offices on matters of importance to Veterans.
What to do, then, about the race problem in the Veterans community?
In the spirit of using that platform to “take point” on changing and improving the Black veterans’ experience, here is my first step.
It is time to elevate the volume of Black voices who talk about the experiences – individual and collective – of the Black veteran. It is time to elevate the volume of voices of Black veterans who never let us forget the history of oppression, abuse, humiliation and inhumanity visited by whites on black veterans. It is time to elevate the voices of Black veterans. It is time to elevate the volume of voices of black veterans who show us how the VA promotes and perpetuates a culture that systematically oppresses Black veterans.
To elevate those voices, I intend to hire a Black writer, ideally a veteran, to write a biweekly column on the Veterans Law Blog® that reports, examines, comments and memorializes the experiences of Black veterans – individually and collectively.
This is a small step, and it is only the first step. There is so much more I can do, and so much more I will do, to work to eradicate the systemic and systematic oppression of Black veterans and Black communities.
Please use the form below if you are a writer who is interested in writing for the Veterans Law Blog® about the individual and collective experiences of Black veterans.
Because I believe it is past time for white mouths to close, so we can focus on listening to Black voices telling us of their experiences, I would like the writer to be Black.
Here are the details of what I would expect:
- Biweekly article (750 – 2000 words) discussing the experiences of Black veterans of all generations.
- The writer will have complete editorial control over their writing, will receive a “byline,” and will be paid for their writing.
- Articles will be researched, with key sources linked.
- Writer will curate content related to his or her blog column to share on the Veterans Law Blog® facebook page.
If you are interested, please fill out the application below.
Please spread this application to anyone you know who wants to speak up about the experiences of Black veterans.
Chris Attig, Veterans Law Blog®