Investigation confirms deep-rooted racism and discrimination in US military
For Stephanie Davis, who grew up with little, the military was a path to the American dream, a kingdom where everyone would receive equal treatment.
She joined the Air Force in 1988 and has progressed steadily over the decades, becoming an Air Surgeon, Commander of Flight Medicine at Fairchild Air Force Base, and eventually Lieutenant Colonel.
But many of her fellow duty, Davis says, viewed her only as a black woman. White residents gave her the call sign of ABW – it was a joke, they insisted – for “angry black woman”, a classic racist trope.
White subordinates often refused to greet her and she was attacked with racist slurs, she said.
“For blacks and minorities, when we first experience racism or discrimination in the military, we feel blind,” Davis said. “We are taught to believe that this is the one place where everyone has a level playing field and that we can reach the top with merit-based work.”
In interviews with the Associated Press, current and former enlisted and officers from nearly every branch of the military described a deeply rooted culture of racism and discrimination that stubbornly persists, despite repeated efforts to eradicate it.
The AP found that the military justice system does not have an explicit category for hate crimes, making it difficult to quantify bias-motivated crimes.
The Defense Department also has no way of tracking the number of soldiers ousted for extremist views, despite repeated promises to root them out. More than 20 people associated with the Jan.6 siege of the U.S. Capitol were found to have military ties.
The PA also found that the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not adequately address discriminatory incidents and that grassroots people of color often face martial tribunals made up of all-white military personnel.
And racial discrimination does not only exist within the military base. Every year, civilians working in the financial, technical and support sectors of the army, air force and navy file hundreds of complaints of racial and skin color discrimination, according to one. AP analysis of US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data.
In February, Lloyd J. Austin III – a former Army general who is now Secretary of Defense, the first black man to serve in the post – ordered commanders and supervisors to take an operational break for a day to discuss extremism in the ranks with their service members.
The Southern Poverty Law Center sent Austin a letter shortly after his order, congratulating him on his decisive action, but stressing that systemic change at all military levels is urgent.
“Those who are brainwashed into white supremacist ideology pose a significant threat to national security and the security of our communities,” wrote SPLC President Margaret Huang.
“We know that far too many military personnel report being discriminated against,” Pentagon spokesman Major Cesar Santiago said. He noted that the Department of Defense had launched multiple efforts over the past year, including updating its anti-harassment policy, evaluating its implicit bias training and developing data-driven strategies to guide efforts to attract and retain diverse members and identify unsanitary work environments. .
In the midst of last year’s summer unrest sparked by police killings of black Americans, Army General Mark A. Milley – who is also chairman of the Department of Defense for heads of state – Joint Major – told congressional leaders that the military could not afford racism or discrimination. .
“We who wear the fabric of our nation understand that cohesion is a force multiplier,” Milley said. “Division leads to defeat.”
Austin pledged to rid the ranks of “racists and extremists” during his confirmation hearing before Congress, which followed the Jan. 6 uprising on Capitol Hill.