DUKE FIELD, Fla. --
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer and several other incidents involving minorities since then has resulted in numerous demonstrations across the country in protest of racial inequality. The unrest throughout America has lead to discussions of racial disparities and divisions within the U.S. Air Force.
“The Air Force is looking at itself in the mirror and asking if they’re contributing to the divisions we’re seeing in the country,” said Master Sgt. Tanya Moon, 919th Special Operations Communications Squadron knowledge operations superintendent. “Racial inequality has always existed but new platforms like social media moved it back into the [national] conversation.”
The Secretary of the Air Force and the Air and Space Forces service chiefs ordered a review on racial disparities within the realms of military justice and career development on June 2, 2020 in response to the social turmoil. The review concluded that a disparity exists for African American Airmen. The Air Force is conducting a root cause analysis and creating action plans for senior military leaders. The task force addressing racial disparities is spread across five lines of effort: (a) Culture and Policy, (b) Education, Training and Testing, (c) Recruiting and Accessions, (d) Workforce Diversity, and (e) Aircrew Diversity.
“It’s a good effort to make everyone feel safe and included in the workplace," said Senior Airman Cynthia Frazier, 919th SOCS cyber system operations technician. “The military is much more diverse than most other environments I’ve experienced. The only systemic issue I’ve encountered were the hair standards, but as of February, there will be some leniency in that.”
The hair standard changes are part of recent revisions made to the dress and appearance regulations. Newer changes remove subjective language including the word “faddish” and references to complexion. The terms sometimes unfairly targeted certain demographic groups.
“I think it’s cool the Air Force is getting out there and talking about issues surrounding inclusivity,” said Moon. “It’s just that everyone’s different. One black person’s experience is going to be different than another black person’s experience.”
Some studies indicate racial disparities are sometimes worse in local communities. The Southern Poverty and Law Center tracked 68 hate groups in the State of Florida last year.
“In the civilian world, there's not as many consequences for blatant racism,” said Frazier. “People could be racist towards me then go on with their lives. In the military, you’ll get paperwork that’ll follow you on your record.”
Moon emphasized that Citizen Air Commandos wear their name in plain view on their uniform, whereas in the civilian world, people can achieve anonymity by hiding behind a computer screen.
“Uniforms garner a certain amount of respect,” said Moon. “I know if I see a cop, firefighter or a nun in uniform, I’m going to speak to them differently.”
A diverse group of Airmen support the 919th Special Operations Wing’s mission of providing America’s Citizen Air Commandos any time, any place.
“If you're busy worrying about success, you don’t have time to bring your personal opinions into the mission,” said Frazier. “Staying mission driven doesn’t give you time to focus on foolishness.”
For more information on what the U.S. Air Force and 919th Special Operations Wing are doing to promote inclusivity within the force, check out https://www.af.mil/Diversity/ or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.