The USAF and Race: We Can Do Better, But it’s Not My Fault
- The US Air Force hasn’t had a male Secretary of the Air Force since 2013.
- The outgoing Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force is African American. The incoming CMSAF is female and Asian American.
- The incoming Chief of Staff of the Air Force is African American.
- Of the last three Chiefs of Staff of the Air Force, two were Jewish.
- Both the US Army and US Air Force (acting) have been led by a homosexual Service Secretary.
Every day it seems there’s an article about the first woman to do something in the Air Force (with an all-female crew), or the Army (again), or the first black woman to do something in the Air Force, or the first Sikh woman to do something in the Army, or how many different ways the Air Force can launch aircraft with only one skin color or gender on board (and the Navy does it, too).
Yet, somehow, the US military, and the US Air Force in particular, manage to be accused of institutional racism, gender discrimination, religious extremism, and intolerance — by those very same people. In recent days, US Air Force and other military leaders have been practically tripping over themselves running to microphones, hand-wringing and expressing contrition for unclear — or imagined — affronts. Or, in other cases, those leaders are simply making direct accusations against their own Service [emphasis added, capitalization original]:
I believe that we have not made much progress in this area of racial injustice and diversity among our ranks…
I am committed to seeing a better future for this nation. A future where…Black Airmen have the same chance to succeed as their White counterparts. — CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright
Think about that. Chief Wright — in a monologue entitled “We can do better” — is ending his three-year tenure as the top-ranking enlisted Airman in the entire US Air Force. He made it to the top, while his peers of varying skin colors did not — yet rather than lauding the virtues of the Air Force and the opportunities it gave him, Wright laments and can only hope for a future where “Black Airmen [and] White Airmen…have the same chance to succeed.”
If his accusations are true, has not a diverse group of people — he among them — led the Air Force in that direction? As the top enlisted Airmen in the Air Force, is CMSAF Wright not responsible for the conditions in which he claims “Black Airmen [and] White Airmen” do not have the same chance to succeed?
Chief Wright’s racially charged language continued with his “greatest fear”:
I will wake up to a report that one of our Black Airmen has died at the hands of a white police officer.
Chief Wright doesn’t explain why that is his greatest fear. During Chief Wright’s tenure as the CMSAF, a person shot to death by a police officer was statistically more likely to be white. Why should he fear a “Black Airman” being killed more than a “White” one? What difference does the color of the skin of the police officer make to Chief Wright?
Clearly it is important, because Chief Wright also said
I am George Floyd. I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice.
Why did Chief Wright not say “I am Elio Carrion?” Unlike the Chief’s list, Carrion did not commit a crime, attack a police officer, or point a weapon at an armed law enforcement officer. Unlike the civilians Chief Wright listed, Carrion was a US Air Force Senior Airman serving in the same Air Force as Wright. Carrion — unarmed, and obeying the commands of a police officer — was shot multiple times. The officer was not charged. Carrion lived. There were no riots.
Is Chief Wright not SrA Carrion because the Senior Airman was the wrong skin color, as was the police officer who shot him? What are other Airmen to make of Chief Wright’s selective, skin-color-based outrage — particularly if “they are SrA Carrion”?
Potentially worse, those same leaders have personally identified racism in the ranks that isn’t even being talked about [emphasis added]:
“I’m thinking about being a captain at the [officers] club with my squadron and being told by other African Americans that I wasn’t black enough since I was spending more time with my squadron than with them.” — Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., incoming Chief of Staff of the Air Force
Where, in this great social upheaval on race, is anyone talking about that racism?
This is from the incoming Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who just implied (graciously speaking) his fellow Airmen could be racist — “consciously or unconsciously” — because they don’t have the same skin color he does and don’t “have to live in two worlds.”
This apparent victim of institutional racism is about to be the top officer in the very institution he has implied is racist.
Both CMSAF Wright and CSAF General Brown are condemning the very institution from which they have benefitted, while not taking any personal responsibility for their part in leading that institution.
It’s as if they have an urgent need to publicly declare the faults of the US Air Force — but those problems are not their fault. Nor, apparently, is their personal success an obvious counterexample to the very “problem” they are condemning.
Watch the video again and consider how many times General Brown says he “felt” or he “perceived” or he “thought” — and then consider he doesn’t once say anyone said or did anything that was actually based on his skin color (save the “black enough” racist statement noted above). It was only his perception.
Who is it that holds the prejudice in his heart if it is he who filters what he sees and hears through the color of his skin?
If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
If the only card you have to play is race…
All men are created in the image of God, and all men have intrinsic value for that reason. It is no more right to say a man has less value because of the color of his skin than it is to say a man has “privilege” because of the color of his skin. The color of a man’s skin is irrelevant. Those that seek to make it relevant — even if they have the best intentions — do themselves and society harm.
The Air Force — and the US military — needs to demonstrate integrity and moral courage. Yes, call out racism for what it is, and root it out. But also call out race-baiting for what it is, and root it out, too. The Air Force isn’t perfect, but if led properly it can be a beacon that can be a unifying example — rather than becoming a victim of the division that is plaguing society.
The Air Force should be the thermostat — not a thermometer.
The Air Force used to say it has only one skin color: Blue.
Maybe that’s something incoming Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Charles “CQ” Brown would do well to remember.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963