Why else might the African Americans in the stockade have decided not to participate that day? All of the U.S. was simmering in racial tensions in 1968, as the Black Power Movement gained momentum, and racism was embedded in the hearts and minds of most white Americans. It is important to remember that although the Vietnam War was the first conflict fought with an integrated armed forces, many discriminatory practices endured in the military (like all of the nation’s institutions).
Here in the stockade, for example, guards routinely said things to Black prisoners like, “Get to the back of the line, where your kind belong.” Black soldiers were confined as separately as possible from their white counterparts (although that didn’t work so well in the overcrowded Presidio). Ostensibly, the logic was “to keep the peace” among inmates.
The Presidio 27 were aware of the difference in treatment between themselves and the black prisoners in the stockade. They chose to raise this as one of the grievances that Walter read to Captain Lamont.