New program aims to study impact of racial inequality on military families and veterans

A screenshot from the Dec. 16, 2020, online launch event of the Racial Equity Initiative, an advocacy group launched by the nonprofit Blue Star Families that aims to help military families of color financially.


By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 17, 2020

An advocacy group kicked off a $1 million initiative Wednesday to study the impact of racial inequality on military families and veterans.

“The military community is not immune to the injustices and injuries of ... systemic racism,” Ingrid Herrera-Yee, a leadership committee member of the Racial Equity Initiative, which is behind the initiative, said at an online launch event.

At the event, veterans told stories of how their children were called names and of being rejected for housing because they were people of color. Retired Air Force Gen. Larry Spencer, who also served as vice chief of staff of the service, said he encountered people throughout his career who didn't believe he held the high ranks he did, because of his color.

Military families often feel isolated or disconnected in their communities due to frequent moves, an issue exacerbated for families of color, said retired Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, co-chair of the program’s leadership committee.

“All military families deserve to feel that they belong, that they are appreciated, and that they are welcome,” said Bingham, former U.S. Army assistant chief of staff for installation management. “Today’s conversation starts by acknowledging that many military families of color do not feel that way. Today is about declaring that we can do better.”

Existing research by Blue Star Families, which set up the initiative, suggests Black and Hispanic families are more likely than white families to report having major financial difficulties, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. Black families are also more likely to report poor communication about resources available to help them, said Jessica Strong, co-director of applied research at Blue Star Families.

Blue Star Families plans to conduct polls and surveys to learn more about the experiences of military families of color, it said.

Twitter: @jplawrence3

The nonprofit group Blue Star Families launched a $1 million initiative Dec. 16, 2020, to study the impact of racial inequality on military families and veterans.