I’d like to take a moment to quickly follow up on my APG Town Hall opening comments from June 17. What sparked the recent protests was the death of George Floyd and the negative conduct of law enforcement officers toward Black Americans and other people of color. However, at the core of that frustration is decades upon decades of institutional racism against people of color. For approximately three weeks, we’ve witnessed both peaceful and violent protests in the streets of most of our major cities and small towns, with no end in sight. People of all colors in our country are finally taking a stand, and I for one am pleased to finally see them being willing to say, “No more. We’re better than this.”
As I discussed, we had a few APG professionals on social media spewing not words of support, but words of hatred and disgust toward people of color and people who disagreed with their views. This was both unexpected and unacceptable. There are some, and I hope only a few, of the people who read this who will say, “There is no bias, and it’s something people of color have mistaken or misunderstood.” There is nothing fake about my negative experiences when it comes to racial prejudice and dealing with law enforcement officers who have singled me out because of the color of my skin. It’s definitely not what I think, but what I know.
At an early age, I was taught not to be surprised when pulled over by the police for no apparent reason and how to respond. As a grown man at 55 years of age, I respond today in the same fashion as I was taught at 16. Should I feel that way? Is that an acceptable way for me to feel? Do law enforcement officers understand I feel this way and why? These are questions we need to answer in order to help heal our society. My prayer is one day, the nation progresses and my children won’t need to have the same discussions with their kids and grandkids. I’m hopeful, but so were my parents and grandparents, and we stand here today having the same discussion. It’s time for change.
As a Black American, I’ve been subjected to racial bias for most of my life, both prior to and during my service to this country. I wear the cloth to protect the rights of those who see me for who I am and also for those who judge me negatively by the color of my skin. The latter bothers me, but I voluntarily signed up to serve and am committed to protect our way of life and the constitutional rights of all citizens. I judge character, and I’m looking forward to the day when we all start there.
I’m encouraged to know our Secretary of the Army openly recognizes we have a problem and is willing to start the dialogue and open the door for change. With mutual respect and professionalism as a basis, I encourage you all to have these conversations about race and racism in the workplace for the purpose of understanding and eradication. Because if we’re united, we can achieve the change that’s needed.
As I reflect on this Father’s Day, I’m praying for a better tomorrow for our country and for our children. They are showing us what right looks like, and it’s time for us to listen. Make our Army better for all who serve by always judging them by character and character alone. As you’ve witnessed throughout this COVID-19 crisis, I have your back. Now I’m asking you to have mine and help me eliminate the bias in our country against people of color. Remember, none of us are born with racial bias. It’s something that’s taught to us or learned from the people we grow up with and the communities in which we live.
We can and will do better! Thanks for listening.
Winning Matters, Army Strong!