America’s proud military is a brother/sisterhood of mixed races who operate as one. In heated battles, they have one another’s backs. No one left behind is their collective motto. But not everything is as it appears on the surface. Military members are no different from their civilian counterparts, and as such, they can’t help but bring their pre-formed prejudices with them when they raise their right hands in defense of our nation.
In the 1970s the military established a program entitled “Race Relations” where groups of various races and ethnic backgrounds were made to sit in large circles while it was carefully explained to them why they should all get along. The program was a huge failure.
Stephanie Davis grew up in the quaint southern town of Thomasville, Georgia. As a black child she many times witnessed the unfair treatment of her race. She vowed to one day escape to a place where people were treated equally regardless of their skin color. For her, that place was the U.S. military, so in 1988, upon graduating high school, she went straight to the local recruiting office and said “Get me as far away from here as soon as you can.”
Taking full advantage of the military’s educational benefits she advanced herself over the course of her 20-year career, climbing all the way to the rank of lieutenant colonel as a flight surgeon, and eventually assumed the role of commander of flight medicine at Spokane, Washington’s Fairchild Air Force Base.
Despite her remarkable achievements and her dedication to duty, Davis said she was still seen as just another black woman by many of her colleagues. In fact, it was so bad that at one point she was given the nickname ABW, which is classic racist slang for “angry black woman.” They claimed to just be having some good-natured fun, but it was at her expense, and she still bears the scars.
She had the authority to take action against some of her white subordinates whom she out-ranked many times showed a lack of respect by refusing to salute her. But instead, she brushed it off. Others wouldn’t accept orders from her. Even patients who needed her help would sometimes refuse to acknowledge her presence and would not address her by her rank.
“For Blacks and minorities, when we initially experience racism or discrimination in the military, we feel blindsided,” she said. “We’re taught to believe that it’s the one place where everybody has a level playing field and that we can make it to the top with work that’s based on merit.”
The Associated Press spoke with a number of military officers and enlisted personnel, both active duty and veterans. Not one of them disagreed that a continuing problem exists within all branches. It’s so deep-rooted that every effort by the military to spray perfume on the situation has failed, and will most likely continue to flop.
The military’s own set of laws do not include hate crimes as a category. This makes it impossible to slap this offense on anyone even if their crime was racially motivated. They face a military judge for their crime only, not for what was behind it. Because of this, it’s impossible to gather statistics.
It was also discovered that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) does not address discrimination as any type of crime at all. And, in almost all court-martial cases against blacks, an all-white panel determined their fate. A review of these cases found that punishments were often far harsher against blacks than they are their white battle-buddies.
Even civil service workers on posts and bases have complained about racial discrimination. In 2020, three branches of the military collectively received close to 1000 racial discrimination complaints from civilians, and another close to 400 complaints that were deemed as discrimination by skin color.
Programs designed to prevent racial discrimination in the military have come and gone. Every single effort has fallen by the wayside and nothing has changed. People in general, military or civilian, cannot be forced to be who they aren’t, and it’s been well-proven.
Yet it’s interesting how when troops from any of the branches find themselves in harm’s way, regardless of their race, their brothers and sisters are right there to fight things out with them, many times risking their own lives to do so. Race never enters the equation.
So we have to ask, is this a bunch of bunk? Did the AP make an unfair assessment? Especially if you’re on active duty or a veteran, we’d like to hear your take since you’ve “been there, done that.”