Military sociology is Moore's specialty


Reporter Staff

WHEN IT COMES to racial equality, corporations and other social institutions could learn a lesson from the military, according to UB Sociologist Brenda Moore. However, she adds, women and homosexuals do not fare as well in the military as elsewhere.

Moore has made military sociology her academic specialty. She earned a Ph.D. in the field from the University of Chicago, where she studied under the late Morris Janowitz, arguably the leading military sociologist of his time. Recently, she authored a book on a unique battalion of African-American women in World War II.

Since arriving at UB in 1988, Moore has become widely recognized for her work in military sociology, which, she explains, is the study of the "culture of the military as a institution" particularly, the military's level of "democratization" or social inclusiveness. Although generally reflective of the culture at large, the military, Moore finds, can be "a particularly good avenue of upward mobility for minorities, especially minority women, who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities."

The military is at the "cutting edge" of racial integration, says Moore, in part because of their "zero tolerance attitude toward racial segregation." There are more clear, direct repercussions to racial biases, she explains, such as the fact that making racial slurs can be, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a punishable offense.

Moore also knows about the military's racial policies from the inside. A veteran of a six-year career in the Army, Moore reached the rank of staff sergeant and was assigned to the Defense Race Relations Institute as a Race Relations specialist. Although her sights had been set on journalism, Moore returned to her native Long Island after leaving the service to earn her undergraduate degree in sociology at the State University at Stony Brook.

Moore views the military as imperfect, but far ahead of corporate America on the race relations front. In fact, the military has "a high percentage of African Americans in leadership," she said, "more than any other institution. It's a sad commentary on the other institutions in society." Moore believes, however, that the high numbers of minorities in the military, and in positions of leadership, may be directly related to the lack of job opportunities for them in other institutions.

When it comes to gender equity, the military does not fare as well as corporations, she maintains, with some services falling well behind the curve. "While there is a glass ceiling in the military generally, the Navy and Marine Corps do even less well," she said. "Theirs is clearly a male dominated culture."

The military also scores lower than other institutions when it comes to treatment of homosexuals, says Moore, who believes that President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy has "created more problems than it has solved." Academic analysis of gays' actual standing in the military culture is difficult to ascertain because, as Moore explains, "Officially, there are no gays in the military."

Moore was selected to present her views on women in the military as a United Nations delegate to the International Women's Conference in Beijing last year. She found that her message was not universally welcomed. "Women all over the world have played active roles in their country's militia," she said, "yet, many of the women at the conference seemed to take the position that women should not have any part of the military."

Her new book, "To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race," chronicles the experiences of the 850 members of the 6888th Battalion of the Women's Army Corps (WAC), which was comprised exclusively of African American women. Their vantage was unique because they suffered "dual segregation," as women and as African Americans.

The book also contrasts the military of that era with today's all-volunteer force. "The all-volunteer military has not had as great an effect on youth as its predecessor," says Moore. "The military functions more like a company today, and enlistees are making more of a career choice of military service." Moore also cites the lack of a contemporary equivalent of the G.I. Bill as a significant difference.

Last year, Moore traveled with President Clinton to the Normandy, France site of the Allied invasion for ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of World War II. She had received a Presidential appointment to the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1994, and traveled to Europe to dedicate a monument constructed by the Commission. In Normandy, she pointed out to the Presidential delegation the gravesites of three members of the 6888th WAC Battalion. To her surprise, no one in the delegation was familiar with the corps that was the subject of her book research at the time.

The Commission oversees the planning and construction of memorials on foreign soil. Among the few stateside monuments the Commission is responsible for are Wash-ington's Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, as well as a new World War II monument planned soon. Along with numerous active and retired generals, Moore serves in the non-paying post with former New York Governor Hugh Carey.

[Current Issue] [Search 
Reporter] [Talk 
to Reporter]