Reflections on the Curse of Racism in the US Army

The new students at West Point only spent a few weeks in the academy, dragging them into the gym’s boxing stadium one evening, which was related to scholars, physical fitness, parades or inspections. Over the next hour and a half, an officer patiently explained the reality of institutional racism, personal prejudice and the inevitability of prejudice, and the danger of racial discrimination. He emphasized that all aspects of military conduct should follow absolute fair norms, and everyone in uniform, regardless of race or color, should be treated equally.

If you imagine a bunch of people who are proficient in social media, Gen Z students will participate in this course, your timeline is far away. This class was not held in 2020 or 2010, 2000 or even 1990. It was held in 1972, when one of us was a full member of the college. Then, the US Army leaders learned that the Vietnam War was coming to an end, and they faced a huge crisis of racial discrimination and racial relations within the army. This topic is so urgent and so important that those leaders who ensure that they talk openly and honestly become one of the key priorities portrayed in West Point’s latest class crowding schedule.

In the subsequent painful decades, leaders of all military departments worked hard to improve racial relations and solve many other local and corrosive problems in the troops. Almost two decades later, the US military looks very different. Discipline and rigorous training have been restored to a large extent to prevent drug abuse, and people generally regard their improved racial relations and commitment to equal opportunities as role models for the broader American society. African-American General Colin Powell served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the decisive 1991 Gulf War and was recognized and respected by millions of Americans from all backgrounds. In the eyes of many people, his status at the peak of the US military proves that the US military has achieved great success in defeating the last ruins of racism.

But racism is neither from the military nor from American society. However, supported by these obvious successes and their new discoveries among the American people, military leaders have basically concluded that racism within the military is a "solved" problem. The urgent lesson for new students disappeared at some point. Many senior leaders, officers and non-commissioned officers believe that the army is a true colorblind person-sometimes clearly bragging that everyone in uniform is "green". Many people also believe that success in the US military is based on the greatest objective achievements of human institutions. Just last summer, General John Hayden, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that the military had resolved the issue of open racism and "eliminated it from the formation." He added: "When I wear a uniform, I feel color blind, which is really great."

Of course, if you happen to be black, the painting looks very different. The scourge of racism continues to haunt the military and American society, even if its most ugly and direct form occurs less frequently. In a recent public statement, it is unbelievable that the persistence of racial discrimination has been expressed by a surprisingly large number of senior African-Americans senior leaders who tell themselves about their ethnicity The painful personal experience within the doctrine. For example, C.Q. Brown, before being confirmed as the new chief of staff of the Air Force (and thus the first black chief of staff in any service), soon released a powerful videotape about his experience as a black chief of staff. He talked about "supervisors who I don't think have high expectations for their bosses", and then said "strive to prove that their expectations and perceptions of African Americans are twice as invalid." In a particularly compelling anecdote, he described: "Wearing the same flight suit as my peers, with the same wings on the chest, and then being interrogated by another military member, you Is it a pilot?” (Returned) Vincent Brooks (Vincent Brooks) Similarly, he recalled, “Since I was in the West Point Military Academy, even when I was an army general, I was a military kid. , He was "personally influenced by obvious and implicit prejudice." Marine Captain (retired) Vincent Stewart described his deep pain: "Described as the best black officer in the army -Never described as the best officer in the army – or never the first choice visible

These stories and countless other unreported stories show that racism and discrimination are still widespread problems for the US military, even if they are the most open to them Tolerance of the speech has declined. Many white members of the army, perhaps like Hyten, have seen little personal evidence of racism, so much so that they are convinced that the army is indeed color blind. However, African-American soldiers continue to face discrimination simply because of skin color. To give an obvious example, the statistics of the military justice system show that black people are more vulnerable to military strikes and face tougher judicial punishments, including cases involving capital punishment, than white whites.

Military racism has also been manifested in subtle ways. Its effects may be difficult to interpret, but the consequences are very serious. For example, the number of African-Americans currently serving as the top military leaders is very small. Today, only 2 out of 41 US four-star generals and admirals are black (6 in 2014). In the Army, African-Americans account for 12.1% of the officer force and are the largest service, but only one of its 14 four-star generals is black. The Navy does not have a black four-star general, and the Marine Corps (only one of the Marine Corps) has never had an African-American officer promoted to a four-star rank. Last fall, the Oval Office photo captured the country’s active duty officers and combatant commanders and surrounded it around the commander-in-chief and his senior national security leaders. No one is African American (or woman).

Why are these numbers so low? Of course, discrimination against African-American officers still exists, but the answer is far more than one. For example, in the Army, a vicious circle prevents a considerable number of African-American officers from reaching the highest rank. Over the past few decades, the number of black officers in combat force branches has decreased, while the number of black officers in support branches such as logistics and personnel has increased. However, most officers promoted to the highest command level came from the combat department. This dynamic has created fewer and fewer black officers who can even compete to reach the highest level of service, which makes the number of people engaged in this job extremely small. And this problem will continue for decades because the military is a closed system that can only be upgraded from within. Even if the military suddenly appointed a large number of black combat officers today, those who stayed behind in the profession would not be promoted to chief of staff until the mid-2040s.

On the surface, this self-selection of most blacks into the support branch does not seem to have much to do with race. After all, in an all-volunteer force, people can usually choose to serve in any branch they want. The data shows that many African-Americans prefer the Army’s logistics support department so that they can acquire marketable skills that prove valuable after military service, and the main influencers in the African-American community often keep young people away Combat weapon. Both of us have heard officers say that this motivation for self-selection is at the root of the problem-if black recruits and students do not want to serve in combat troops, then the Army can do nothing about it.

But this argument fails to recognize the deeper way in which races shaped these preferences, whose origins can be traced back decades. After the segregation of the army in 1948, many black soldiers volunteered to join the combat forces-partly because racism during the Second World War had greatly weakened their support role. Among candidates and military officers, the number and qualifications of black civil servants have increased, especially during and after the Vietnam era. As a young infantry officer, one of us served in the African American Division, Brigade and Battalion Command, and it was very unusual for middle-class white people to work for black bosses anywhere else in the United States. At that time, a large number of non-military personnel in African Americans also joined the combat forces. In 1980, one of us ordered an infantry company to have about 45% of blacks. One of his West Point military school students served in an infantry company. Except for the lieutenant, a company platoon was black.

However, the number of blacks enlisted in the army began to decline in the early 1980s, and the number of enlisted personnel declined further. . The reason is not entirely clear, although the fact that the unemployment rate of blacks soared during the 1981-82 recession may have encouraged many African-Americans to join the support department to acquire skills that can be more easily transferred to civil affairs. Today's four-star generals joined the army at about this time, which is one of the reasons why there are so few African Americans in their ranks. By 2000, the company's black soldiers, which were 45% African-American, had halved. Today, only 5 of the company's 119 infantry are black.

Once this trend emerged, many factors made it self-sufficient. There are fewer black officers in combat units, which means that the mentors and role models who fall behind them will be reduced. It greatly reduces the chances of new officials of any race, especially white officials, working for African-American commanders. It reduces the interaction of the army's broad range of combat forces with black soldiers and leaders, except for supporting roles in combat forces. Because the military gives the most prestige and reward to those who directly fight the enemy, this adds to the concept of combat weapons that most African-Americans are the most able to provide support and are not really qualified for front-line combat work. . This also exacerbated the obvious and unconscious biases within the force, which led to more black people coming to the conclusion that they would have a better chance of success in the support department.

As a result, prestigious army combat troops are becoming increasingly white. The Army Rangers and Special Forces are known for their special racist attitudes, which has driven more African Americans away. The increasing number of whites in these special operations units and branches of combat units inevitably makes them more attractive to those with racist or even white supremacist views. Moreover, although all services emphasize that such behavior will not be allowed, some of these views have been transformed into behavior. For example, a survey conducted by Military Times showed that the proportion of respondents who had seen examples of racism or white nationalism in the military increased from 23.1% in 2017 to 36.3% in 2019, and During the same period, minority service members who witnessed such examples increased from nearly 42% to 46.7%. In the past five years, the US Department of Defense has prosecuted 21 criminal cases of white supremacism, although critics believe that more work needs to be done to eliminate white supremacism from the military.

Although this clearly shows that even the most outrageous forms of racism still spread in the military, there are more hidden and insidious forms of racism that are usually invisible to white people. A soldier proud of color blindness turned a blind eye to the different experiences African Americans experienced. After the unreasonable killing of George Floyd, the wave of protest swept across the country, which shows that race and racism are still established on the basis of American experience. White soldiers believe that when the country continues to fight the army that is often referred to as the original sin of the United States, the military may be truly colorblind, which is very naive. At least, recent incidents have wiped out this last excuse for ignorance.

Solving racism in the army and the entire nation is a huge challenge that requires years of sustained and concentrated effort. The problems in the manufacturing process for more than 400 years cannot be solved overnight, and challenge those who have never suffered discrimination based on skin color to listen to and learn from them. The military needs to first make a concerted and comprehensive effort to analyze the extent of ethnic problems within the force and begin to determine possible solutions. Defense Minister Mark Esper (Mark Esper) recently announced some measures to solve these problems, and the Army has launched a "project inclusive" plan. These are good beginnings, but the military should now take some concrete, overdue actions to speed up reforms.

Most of the time, the Army and Air Force should follow the leadership of the Marine Corps, and recently, the Navy has prohibited all public display of the Union logo and other symbols celebrating the Union and its leaders. Organizations from NASCAR to Mississippi are now free of these deeply offensive signs. Unfortunately, some departments of the Ministry of Defense have not yet done so. The Army should emulate General Robert Abrams, one of its most senior commanders, who issued such a ban in the US Army South Korea. The Army should also do everything in its power to silently support the renaming of its 10 bases to commemorate the Allied generals. Unfortunately, because the White House actually prevented the Pentagon from continuing to discuss this issue, Army leaders cannot currently do so publicly. However, if bipartisan legislation forces this issue to pass as part of this year’s defense authorization bill, or if there is a president who will support the president next year, they can begin quietly planning the progress of the renaming process.

From a broader perspective, US military leaders should renew their commitment to eradicate racist leaders and opinions. This should be a priority for all military departments, but combat units and special operations units should be subject to special scrutiny. Social media is an important window into this dark world, and while military leaders respect privacy, they should be vigilant to members who encourage racist behavior on these platforms. Every leader of every military unit should keep clear and uncompromising in eliminating such behavior and condemning these beliefs.

Unless military leaders at all levels devote more time to listening to the voices of African descent, this effort cannot succeed. The troops, as well as African-American teachers, coaches, parents, ministers, advisers, and even brotherhoods and sisterhoods. This will help these leaders better understand their concerns about military service, gather their suggestions for change, and reiterate the importance of diversity in national military leadership.

Finally, military leaders should do more to encourage African Americans to take up combat positions, especially in the Army and special operations forces. This should start with ROTC and service colleges, and should also include stronger investments in students from long-established black colleges and universities. Today, of the more than 100 schools in these schools, only 25 exist in the ROTC program. This number needs to be increased and should be increasingly emphasized as part of the White House’s initiative against these educational institutions. In these schools, more senior combat officers, especially black combat officers, should be assigned to the ROTC detachment.

There is no silver bullet to solve the long-standing problem of racism in the US military. It is still a reflection of the society it serves. The spread of racism in American society is deeper than many of us who do not face it every day often realize. However, the recent deadly deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other African Americans have forced the United States to deserve Too. In this tense national environment, the US military now has both opportunities and greater obligations to help indicate the way forward by setting a positive example for other members of society. It should actively assess the scale and scope of its racist problems, and its leaders should set clear and clear guidelines to keep their houses organized. It needs to regain energy, dedication and urgency to solve this harmful problem that was passed to those young West Point military school students nearly 50 years ago, and renew its commitment to realize its ideals, because everyone judges this institution based on talent. people.

. U.S. Army Admiral David W. Barno (retired) and Dr. Nora Bensahel are visiting professors of strategic research at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and senior fellows at the Philip Merrill Strategic Research Center. They also served as editors in Rock Warfare and this column is published monthly. Sign up for Barno and Bensahel’s strategic outpost communications to track their articles and public events.

Picture: White House (Photo by Shealah Craighead)

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