looking for a young black man

Are you a young, African-American male within driving distance of Ypsilanti? If so, drop me a line. I might have some work for you.

Actually, I should mention right up front that it doesn’t involve either being alone with me, or the removal of any clothes… Video equipment, however, may be involved.

So, here’s the deal.

Last year, while making my way around Ypsilanti’s annual Heritage Festival, I happened to notice a large, black Humvee in the park… It was hard not to notice, as it was blasting rap music and surrounded by military personnel… As I made my way toward the vibrating, black military vehicle, which I seem to recall had giant speakers mounted in the back, I noticed a group of young African American teenagers approaching from the other direction.

The men in uniform, not surprisingly, turned their attention toward them (and away from the overweight, middle-aged white guy) and began their rap about the military (I believe it was the Army) and why it was a great place for a young man to spend a few years. The two things I distinctly remember are 1) that the recruiters said if they signed up they’d get to drive around in cool vehicles like this tricked-out Humvee, and 2) that lots of famous rappers had served in the military. I can’t remember the names of the rappers, but they rattled off a list and then said something like, “All of those guys got their start in the Army.” At some point, I think it became apparent that I was eavesdropping and the recruiters ushered the candidates around to the other side of the Hummer.

I personally don’t have a problem with the military, and, in fact, I think it can be really good for some people. So, I’m not suggesting that they not be allowed to recruit at community events like these. What I found offensive, however, was the fact that their pitch was so carefully crafted for an “urban” demographic. From, “I bet you’ve never been in a ride this expensive before,” to “he learned to rap in the military,” the pitch was honed to perfection. There was no talk, at least that I could hear, of the danger involved, or even the service that one might feel compelled to offer their country. There was no talk of the skills that would be learned, or the potential to have college tuition paid for. They weren’t there to talk about the realities of life in the military, or the current challenges we face in the Middle East. They were there fishing… luring in young kids with lots of bass and a big, shiny car.

So, this year (assuming they’re there again) I was thinking that maybe I’d get someone to go down with a mic, so we could all hear what’s actually being said… Unfortunately, I’m a bit out of touch with the high school demographic… and I don’t feel like going the route of Gene Wilder in “The Silver Streak” and trying to pass for young and black.

Maybe I’ll put up an ad on the new Craig’s List: Ann Arbor.

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7 Comments

  1. ChelseaL
    Posted August 1, 2005 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    “…I don’t feel like going the route of Gene Wilder in ‘The Silver Streak…'”

    Still, I think I speak for a lot of MM.com readers when I say I’d like to see you try.

  2. Teddy Glass
    Posted August 1, 2005 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    More blackface! More blackface!

  3. Posted August 1, 2005 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I agree with ChelseaL. But have someone there to film it.

    Also, recruiters behaving like that is nothing new. You can’t talk someone into doing something dangerous by focusing on the dangerous part. You “sell the sizzle”. Get their eyes all glittery with the good bits, get the papers signed, get them off to basic and he gets his recruiting bonus. By the time they realize it’s not going to be as fun as they were told it no longer matters to the recruiter. They are in and he is luring more with promises of a great time. Hell, my recruiter lied to me when I asked if there was a graphic design program in the Air Force because it was easier to get me in with guaranteed job in electronics. Just bad luck that the squadron I was trained in also happened to be the same squadron that housed the graphic design program. The sky is blue and recruiters lie.

  4. chris
    Posted August 1, 2005 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Rather than be upbeat, they should be all doom and gloom…like, “you think you have a chance of getting a good job with promotion potential, or college funding here? Haw-haw!!!”.

    My personal favorite is the recruitment happening in the US protectorates. I guess this is a better job opportunity than the off shore factories that do not require federal minimum standards of job quality and pay. Not to mention all those silly little EPA standards the companies would have to comply with.

    But really, these factory jobs are for the women. What man wants to sit behind a sewing machine making Walmart nylon granny panties when he can wield a big gun. Now there is an opportunity for the men to acheive economic equality.

    You do know they also accept recruits who are neither American citizens or protectorate citizens w/ the promise of US citizenship? Not sure how the recruitment happens though.

    Ps-ixnay on the ackfaceblay

    Any young man of color would probably do. Better yet. Get different students of color and see how they mold their sale to the different cultures. I bet you could get a small grant and hire U Michigan students. or call Michael Moore.

  5. Teddy Glass
    Posted August 1, 2005 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I can’t find the links right now, but there have been a few very good undercover reports filed by high school journalists on recruiting lately. If I were you, I’d contact your local high school and pitch the idea to their journalism class.

  6. mark
    Posted August 1, 2005 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to know more about the “citizenship for military service” programs and recruiting in US protectorates. Do you have any information, Chris?

    As for the military, it’s still one of the most integrated organizations in the US and I do believe it’s probably one of the few places where people of color have a decent chance at achieving equality. And, the military’s been good for people I know who have, for one reason or another, had to turn their lives around. With that said, I still think that they should be held to some standard when it comes to recruiting. I realize that it wouldn’t be effective to go out recruiting with marketing materials that depict dead and injured soldiers, but I think they have to at least cut the “so, you want to be a rapper, well here’s how you do it” approach.

  7. chris
    Posted August 1, 2005 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Reg. recruitment in the US protectorates, see http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/31/national/31recruit.html

    I am surprised you didn’t see it, as it was in this Sunday’s NYT’s. For those going to link, link now as it is available for free for this week.

    Reg. citizenship for military service. Legal residents (ie-holding a green card) are allowed to get in the head of the line for citizenship if they are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. It was actually an executive order (read Bush) post 9/11.

    There was an article in the New Yorker about a Filipino who died in Iraq and there is some kind of controversy surrounding his being granted citizenship posthumously. Although, his mother (herself, a citizen) was denied membership in some club for mothers who had lost their children in action as her son was not a citizen at his time of death. It was made public and somehow, the rest of the club then decided to let her in.

    I tried to google for a credible link and found a few news articles that required signing up. In the process I came across a few chat rooms where foreigners were clamoring to “serve” and wanted to know how to enlist. In these rooms there were any number of rumors regarding individuals having gotten in w/o a green card. In typical military style the SSgt. running the room would neither confirm or deny.

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