As a black American, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force said his heart races when he sees the flashing lights of a police car in his rear view mirror. But, in a striking and compelling Twitter thread, Kaleth O. Wright — the service’s senior enlisted leader — said his greatest fear was waking up to a report that a black airman has died at the hands of a white police officer.
“As I struggle with the Air Force’s own demons that include the disparities in military justice and discipline among our young black male airmen and the clear lack of diversity in our senior officer ranks … I can look in the mirror for the solution,” Chief Master Sgt. Wright wrote.
His Twitter address came as riots and protests raged across the country in the aftermath of the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
In the multi-part Twitter thread, he acknowledged his own failing, saying, “I have also not done enough as your most senior enlisted leader.”
Chief Master Sgt. Wright met with friends of different races — military and civilian, officer and enlisted — to find some common ground. A right to be angry about unfairness and unequal opportunities was acknowledged.
“We eventually moved beyond the rage and began to think about what’s next? What could or should we be doing as a group and as individuals to stop this from happening in our communities across these United States?” he wrote in the Twitter thread.
A “full and thorough” independent review of the Air Force’s military justice system is being established, he said. “We will look to uncover where the problem lies, and how we can fix it,” he wrote.
Along with Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff, work will be done to improve the diversity in the Air Force — especially in the most senior ranks. He asked for the troops to offer their own suggestions.
He also said Air Force leaders at every level should reach out to black airmen during this time and listen to them. They don’t need or want “special treatment.”
“But they deserve to be treated fairly and equally, both by our United States Air Force and these United States of America. This begins with you and I am asking — no, fighting — for your understanding,” Chief Master Sgt. Wright said.
While being angry about inequality in this country is appropriate, he challenged Air Force personnel to “find a way to move beyond the rage.”
“Do what you think is right for the country, for the community, for your sons, daughters, friends and colleagues — for every black man in this country who could end up like George Floyd,” he wrote.