African-Americans and Hispanics nationwide are disproportionately represented in the U.S. armed forces, but blacks and Latinos are less likely to support the country's war with Iraq.
Minorities make up 31 percent of the U.S. population but 34 percent of the military personnel. While many polls show Americans favoring military action against Iraq 60 to 70 percent, those numbers are much lower among blacks and Hispanics.
A recent Pew Hispanic Research Center poll showed that 48 percent of Latinos favored military action against Iraq and 43 percent opposed it. Another Pew poll showed 44 percent of blacks favoring military action compared to 73 percent of whites.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby poll showed that 23 percent of blacks nationwide supported the war while 62 percent of whites did.
The Congressional Black Caucus addressed the House of Representatives last week to voice disapproval of military action without Congressional and United Nations approval. Likewise, 16 of the 19 Hispanics in Congress voted against granting President Bush the authority to take military action against Iraq, falling along party lines.
African-Americans, like Andrew McQueen, assistant bursar at Owens Community College, said he is torn between supporting the U.S. military facing Iraqi gunfire, but questioning the reason why soldiers are there in the first place.
“I support the men and women who are there giving their lives now,” Mr. McQueen said. “We have students and people employed here who are involved. I'm not sure about the politics of it. The information [about the war] hasn't convinced the public. I want to hear substantially more to justify it.”
Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, vice president of student affairs at the University of Toledo and advisor to a group of black male students, said he has noticed a level of skepticism about the war.
“A lot of it deals with the historical treatment of African-Americans during war time,” Dr, Bledsoe said. “You can hear a lot of that skepticism during the Tom Joyner morning [national radio] show and a lot of the students listen to that.”
Hispanic support has been nearly split down the middle nationally. Citizens of Mexico, where most of the Toledo-area Latino immigrants are from, were strongly against the war - 70 to 85 percent in several polls. Many experts felt those sentiments prevented Mexican president Vicente Fox from publicly supporting President Bush in the war.
Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, which has pushed for national immigration reform, said many of those efforts have stalled since 9/11. He said he now concentrates on the troops' safety.
“Being committed to non-violence for most of my adult life, the reality of war and putting our men and women, who are our friends and neighbors, in harm's way, is excruciating and regrettable,” Mr. Velasquez said. “We must now pray for their safety and quick return.”
Roberto Gonzalez, with the Toledo-Lucas County Victim Witness assistance program and a community activist, said Latinos have a long history of participating in the military and supporting the United States. He said he believes many Hispanics are for military action.
“In general, I think Latinos have always supported the United States in times of conflict,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “I think there are more deeply religious folk who would never opt for war as long as there are other resources. I didn't think there were any options.”