EDUCATION, RACISM, AND THE MILITARY: A CRITICAL RACE THEORY ANALYSIS OF THE GI BILL AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS
Mencke, Bernadette Kristine Buchanan
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This study examined the impact of the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944 (the GI Bill) on African Americans' quest for higher education. The central question guiding this study follows: Why has higher education been so elusive for African Americans? With reference to this question, the following sub-questions were addressed: 1.How can the "counter narrative" approach uncover "truths" about the GI Bill's lack of effectiveness for the African American community?2.How did the racial climate of the 1940s and 1950s impact African American veterans and their pursuit of post-secondary education?3.How did African American veterans counter instances when race and racism intersected during their pursuit of higher education? 4.How does the lingering influence of the GI Bill impact higher education for African Americans today?This qualitative study followed a Critical Race Theory (CRT) design. This methodology uses five tenets to interrogate the intersections of race and racism and bring about social change: counter storytelling, critique of liberalism, interest convergence, permanence of racism, and whiteness as property.The participants in this study were four African American World War II servicemen who served in the 1940s. These individuals were eligible for their GI Bill benefits and used some of it for educational purposes. In general, the veterans explained how racism had a direct affect on their educational level prior to being drafted into the military and thus limited their ability to use the GI Bill to pursue higher education after the war. The veterans critiqued the unequal distribution of GI Bill benefits, stating that race was the determining factor in their ability to use the GI Bill. Although, the GI Bill helped them continue their education, only one of the veterans used the GI Bill to complete a four-year degree; the remaining three used it to complete high school.In addition, the counter-narratives presented in this study bring to the forefront inconsistencies in the majoritarian story about how the GI Bill made higher education available to the masses. Instead, the study enables African American veterans to provide another perspective on the underrepresentation of African Americans in higher education today.