John Mundell

Black Navy, Queer Navy

Since its inception, the U.S. military has strategically recruited black men, historically promising them freedom, land, education, and equality via the uniform. Of the branches, the Navy has filled its ranks with more black men than any other. Yet, while the Navy was the first branch to experiment with desegregated ships in 1944 prior to the 1948 integration of all U.S. forces, discourses of fear in initially training and arming black men and derision for an allegedly weak, dishonorable, or exceedingly potent masculinity have consequentially influenced disciplinary practices against the black male body over the course of the military’s existence. To attain rights of citizenship, black men have been held to a stricter code of masculinity ethics, thus further limiting any non-heteronormative desire or behavior in times of labor and leisure. This study, as part of a larger comparative study between the U.S. and Brazil, explores the U.S. Navy’s disciplinary practices of black sailors and officers, particularly for sexually related behaviors since integration in 1948, but with a focus on the years prior, during, and after the enactment of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (1993-2011) in comparison to discipline enforced on white sailors and officers and the overall code of ethics.