For this week, I decided to write about connections between race relations and the “Reaching Out” photo. It seems from what I have read, that even though Truman desegregated the U.S. military with executive order 9981 almost 20 years prior to when this photo was taken (www.ourdocuments.gov), a desegregated military still seemed like a new thing to most people in the U.S. because the military was pretty much the only thing that would have been desegregated in the south. Racial tensions were at an all-time high during the Vietnam War because of the discrimination and injustice against black soldiers in the military (ic.galegroup.com). The Civil Rights Movement was also at its peak around the time this photo was taken, which fueled racial tensions overseas even more as black soldiers heard about the movement happening back home in the U.S. You could see how in this context a photo of a black soldier and a white soldier that shows so much battlefield camaraderie would have been quite a shock to readers in the U.S. at the time. This is especially true when you consider that the photo wasn’t published until 1971, just a few years after the civil rights movement ended in the late sixties.
The implications of this photo today show us how the desegregation of the military was one of the first steps toward racial progress in the U.S. Even though there was still a lot of racial tension in the military at the time this photo was taken, we can look back and see those tensions as growing pains. What this picture did was show the possibility of black and white soldiers being able to fight alongside one another effectively, which is an idea that I don’t think many of us struggle with imagining today because we see pictures like the “Reaching Out” photo. However, at the time this would have been hard for people to imagine that cooperation like this could occur between black people and white people.