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    Representation: the antidote to extremism

    District of Columbia National Guardsman interacts with members of the public

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Anthony Small | Members of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, District of Columbia Army National...... read more read more



    Story by Kevin Valentine 

    DC National Guard

    WASHINGTON -- Nearly 100 years ago Carter G. Woodson, an American historian known as the “Father of Black History,” laid the foundations for what would later become Black History Month. To bring focus to this celebration of the contributions of Black people to American history, Woodson introduced themes for each observance.

    This year’s theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.

    Representation matters.

    The National Guard has a rich history of Black Soldiers and Airmen serving with distinction. Some notable regiments include the U.S. Army’s 93rd Division: the 369th, 370th and 372nd Infantry Regiments who all served in World War I.

    The 372nd Infantry Regiment was made up of Black National Guard units from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

    The 372nd Infantry Regiment was attached to a French division, as was often the practice at the time as Black Soldiers were not as welcomed to fight alongside their fellow U.S. service members. The regiment gained notoriety for their actions during Meuse-Argonne where they never surrendered or retreated. The French army awarded the regiment with the Croix de Guerre with Palm to recognize their valor.

    Army Regulation 600-20 defines extremist organizations and activities as those that “advocate racial, gender, or ethnic hatred or intolerance; advocate, create, or engage in illegal discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.” According to this definition, members of the 372nd Infantry Regiment were victims of extremist views by today’s standards.

    The regiment’s representation in World War I is often cited for its success on the battlefield, as well as combating internal cultural and race-based extremist views within the ranks that maintained that Black service members shouldn’t be allowed to serve alongside white service members.

    The regiment was deactivated after World War II; however, its legacy is maintained by the D.C. National Guard’s 372nd Military Police Battalion, which features within the battalion’s insignia a red hand, a nod to the 372nd Infantry Regiment being attached to the French 157th Infantry Division, also known as the Red Hand.

    Black representation mattered when combating extremist views during World War I, and Black representation within the National Guard ranks matters when combating extremist views today, as the 2021 Black History Month theme suggests.

    The D.C. National Guard’s 372nd MP Battalion, like its predecessor 372nd Infantry Regiment, is made up primarily of Black National Guardsmen who represent the people and community of the District of Columbia. Within the last year, the reservist battalion has been continuing full-time efforts to maintain peace during contentious demonstrations for racial equity, provide support to COVID-relief efforts within the region and are helping to sustain National Guard presence at the U.S. Capitol complex.

    This all matters because often celebrated representation, like the 372nd’s historic role in World War I, is needed to combat another representation - ideas that are less desired and oftentimes extremist.

    One of the undesired representations within the ranks of the National Guard is extremist groups.

    On Feb. 5, Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense and no stranger to the importance of representation as the first Black secretary of defense, issued a memo with the subject “Stand-Down to Address Extremism in the Ranks.”

    In this memo, Austin called for, “…commanding officers and supervisors at all levels to select a date within the next 60 days [from issuance of the memo] to conduct a one-day ‘stand-down’ on this issue [extremism] with their personnel.”

    Austin suggested this as a first step to address the small percentage of often racially motivated extremism within the ranks of the Department of Defense.

    Perhaps a more long-term and lasting solution is representation. Organizations like the D.C. National Guard’s 372nd MP Battalion, as the 372nd Infantry Regiment before it, represents a culture that is counter to the culture of extremism that military leaders have been charged to snuff out.

    Sharing that history and highlighting the contributions of Black people to the U.S. Armed Forces during Black History Month and beyond shed light on the already bright legacy of the U.S. Armed Forces’ diverse history. That light can illuminate the small-dark areas where extremism exists.



    Date Taken: 02.28.2021
    Date Posted: 02.28.2021 15:48
    Story ID: 390150
    Location: WASHINGTON, DC, US

    Web Views: 190
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