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Detroit Raw by Sam Riddle

Sam Riddle with a Buffalo Soldier

Sam Riddle with a Buffalo Soldier

Black veterans shafted by America — again

Mind snacking while watching Michigan (’77) demolish Florida on the way to B-ball’s Final Four, one of those military commercials dominated the screen as we were assured that our fighting men and women were defending liberty and democracy worldwide — UooRah! Man, that was a patriotic feel-good moment! Then a Detroit mind snack nano Unlike. Hey. we need you guys in Detroit — now — because democracy has taken a big hit in the D and we don’t see any Al Qaeda but our right to vote has been whacked.

The fact that the right to vote has been trampled upon in Detroit doesn’t seem to bother Dan Gilbert, Gov. Snyder, EM Kevyn Orr, Roger Penske, Freep editor Stephen Henderson, DetNews editor Nolan Finley or WJR’s Frank Beckmann. These enablers of Democracy Destruction have a lot in common including never having served in the U.S. military.


As an Honorably Discharged Vietnam-Era veteran, I have been aghast at the lack of conscience of the aforementioned luminaries who refuse to be bothered and even revel at the destruction of democracy in Detroit where the voting rights of those who live in this American city with the highest percentage of Blacks in the nation have been told in a U.S. Supreme Court Dred Scott fashion, “Blacks have no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” KMA. WTF. Yep. It went down like that.

By the way, the Scott decision has never been overruled, though we do have the 13th, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as a Voting Rights Act to protect the only class and race of Americans who need all that to affirm citizenship and the right to vote. Throw in Detroit debt that is being used as the largest poll tax in American history that deprives the majority Black population of local voting rights and you have a snapshot of the zenith of institutional racism.

An old friend of mine reasoned that if we served in the U.S. military, our citizenship could not ever be denied.


“Once let the Black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

“There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution.”

— Frederick Douglass


Yep, great logic brother Douglass, problem is that racist profit-seekers don’t give a damn about the U.S. Constitution or military service.

During the Civil War, 10 percent of the men serving in the Union Army were Black. There were over 200,000 Black soldiers in the U.S. Army and Navy. Of 40,000 Black soldiers that died in the Civil War, 30,000 deaths were the result of piss-poor care — disease or infection. Black veterans who dared to demand their rights of American citizenship were often lynched on the spot, even after Constitutional amendments.

World War I witnessed more patriotic service by Black Americans in the United States military. Despite battlefield heroics, wounds and deaths, Black soldiers were subjected to the racist antics of the angry white man that never seems to go away. When Black military veterans demanded they be treated as any other American veterans, including employment citing qualification due to military training, these Black vets were greeted with white race riots and lynchings.

Jim Crow ruled.

As World War II was ending, the Detroit White Race Riot of 1943 resulted in at least 34 deaths as a mob of 5,000 whites tried to prevent Blacks from returning to Detroit by blocking Belle Isle’s McArthur Bridge. Many Black veterans were with their families when white folk ran amuck on that June 20, 1943 day of Detroit shame.

Our Korean, Vietnam and now Black vets of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East know that their treatment has not been all that. Thank you for your service.

History is clear. The military service of Black Americans has never been honored properly and certainly that military service has been thoroughly denigrated in Detroit with the Democracy Beat down administered and enabled by those that never served our nation. Veterans deserve better.

Sam Riddle is an Honorably Discharged Viet-Nam Era veteran who dropped out of high school and enlisted in the U.S. military, later earning his GED. Sam’s degrees include a B.A. (Michigan State University) and a Juris Doctor (University of Michigan Law School). Sam is active in prisoner rights issues after being caught up in political corruption and serving 30 months in federal prison. Sam currently serves as Political Director for the Michigan National Action Network founded by Reverend Al Sharpton and is a Life Member of the NAACP. He can be reached at or

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