The passion and pain that demonstrators around the world have expressed isn’t limited to civilians.
Even as President Donald Trump continues to threaten to use the military to quell uprisings across the nation, those charged with protecting and serving America too have experienced rampant racism in the ranks.
“Who am I? I am a Black man who happens to be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force,” Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright penned in a Facebook post that’s gone viral. “I am George Floyd…I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice … What happens all too often in this country to Black men who are subjected to police brutality that ends in death…could happen to me.”
Wright noted that “racism doesn’t care about rank.”
“Any black airman can still get killed by police. Believe me my heart starts racing like most other Black men in America when I see those blue lights behind me.”
Gen. Dave Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, wrote in a memo according to the Air Force Times that African Americans “have to confront the awful reality of racism — and acknowledge that it also exists in the Air Force.”
In the memo, Goldfein denounced the killing of George Floyd by police officers.
“Sometimes it’s explicit, sometimes it’s subtle, but we are not immune to the spectrum of racial prejudice, systemic discrimination and unconscious bias,” Goldfein wrote. “We see this in the apparent inequity in our application of military justice. We will not shy away from this; as leaders and as airmen we will own our part and confront it head-on.”
A scathing report on racial disparities written by the advocacy group, Protect our Defenders, revealed that the Air Force failed to follow through on recommendations to better report on racial disparities in its justice system that were uncovered by a 2017 report and a 2019 investigation by the Government Accountability Office.
The report claimed that the Air Force established a disparity working group to study the issue as far back as 2016, but the group met for only three months and its discoveries were ignored by service leadership.
Meanwhile, Chief Master Sgt. Wright stated his thoughts on what can be done to eliminate racism from the Air Force.
“I believe that we have not made much progress in this area of racial injustice and diversity among our ranks,” Wright wrote. “This is why I’m working with General Goldfein, first and foremost to have a full and thorough independent review of our military justice system. We will look to uncover where the problem lies, and how we can fix it.
“You might think you know what it’s like to grow up, exist, survive and even thrive in this country as a Black person,” he wrote. “But let me tell you, regardless of how many Black friends you have, or how Black your neighborhood was, or if your spouse or in-laws are Black…you don’t know. You don’t know the anxiety, the despair, the heartache, the fear, the rage and the disappointment that comes with living in this country, our country every single day.”