The “Rat Pack” Makes the Point

By Peter Galuszka

On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman took the historically enormous step of integrating the U.S. Armed Forces. The Virginia Military Institute, which prides itself on its warrior panache, didn’t get around to that until 1968 and even today there are serious questions about racism at the state-supported school.

The past few days have seen story after story about charges of widespread racism at the school that led to Gov. Ralph Northam, a VMI graduate, ordering an investigation. The school’s superintendent, an 80-year-old retired four-star Army general has resigned.

The Washington Post got big play for its investigative report about the atmosphere in Lexington, where the school is located. Actually, the Roanoke Times first had a story this summer that Black alumni were concerned that racism was getting out of hand. This morning, the Post has a story about anonymous posts that VMI students apparently made on Jodel, a Website.

If anything, the posts prove the media’s point. Black athletes are referred to insultingly as “permits” because they are excused from normal military exercise because they work out in sports. They are said to be at VMI because they are not good enough at sports to get into a better college.

It goes on. A gay female cadet, a track runner, left because she couldn’t take the abuse for her gender identification (yes, gay women can be in the military). VMI didn’t bother to allow women as students until forced to do so by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1990s. And who says the place isn’t run by a bunch of entitled white guys?

Even a Washington Post reporter who has covered the story has been called a “Soy Boy,” a term used on white supremacist Web sites to imply a less-than masculine man. Regretfully, a similar insult appeared yesterday on Bacon’s Rebellion.

This is the second Virginia school to get into disputes about racism in the past months. A senior at the University of Virginia was subjected to insults of all sorts, including some on this blog, because she used a cuss word on a sign on her dorm door. The woman, who apparently is a star student and works part time as an Emergency Medical Technician, is a Pakistani-American. She endured slights of all types, including that she needs to go back to her home place or otherwise leave UVa.

One rude commenter said she should marry someone from ISIS, the radical Muslim group. I was truly disappointed with the comments at BR on the topic and was embarrassed to be associated with it. After all, this is 2020, not 1955. Naturally, I will be called out by one of the BR White Guys for helping destroy Western Civilization.

Not to be judgmental, but the problems at VMI are more portentous. Although VMUI cadets play at being soldiers, they aren’t really, and a little more than half go on to serve in the military.

The last thing we need right now is to have an officer with an attitude insult a member of the Armed Forces due to race, sex or sexual gender. That probably wouldn’t go well in combat. I remember the stories by cousin told me. He became an Army lieutenant after graduating from UVa in 1966. Racism in the military was really bad then. And there was a war on.