You know those racial microaggressions that we have to endure in the corporate world? Or, the racial targeting civilians have to face day in and day out? Well, the very people serving our country aren’t immune either, apparently.
According to a Protect Our Defenders study, black troops are much more likely to receive military punishment than their white comrades.
Protect Our Defenders is an organization that advocates for victims of sexual assault and military justice; it recently released an advanced copy of its report, which cited Pentagon data from 2006 to 2015, to USA TODAY.
“Over the past decade, racial disparities have persisted in the military justice system without indications of improvement,” the report states.
“These disparities are particularly striking for black service members, who face military justice or disciplinary action at much higher rates than white service members in every service branch. In fact, the size of the disparity between white and black service members’ military justices involvement has remained consistent over the years, and, in the case of the Air Force and Marine Corps has increased.”
The data were broken down by branches of the armed forces.
The Marine Corps led the pack with the most significant racial issues. Protect Our Defenders found that not only were black Marines 32 percent more likely than white Marines to face court martial, but that they were 2.6 times more likely than whites to be found guilty during the proceedings.
Black servicepeople in the Air Force were also far more likely than white airmen to face both court martial and non-judicial punishment — 71 percent more likely.
Surely things aren't as bad in the Army, right?
Well, turns out that black soldiers were 61 percent more likely to be court martialed than white soldiers.
And in the Navy, black sailors were 40 percent more likely to be court martialed than white sailors.
Air Force spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder calls the findings from this analysis are "concerning." He said, "The Air Force works hard to prevent unlawful discrimination in all of our processes, particularly military justice, and will continue to do so."
Unfortunately, none of this is unsurprising. Given our social climate, it makes sense that racial targeting has been extended to all sectors, right? It just feels like an extra burn when it’s done to those sacrificing themselves for the safety and freedoms of this country.
“It is longstanding Department of Defense policy that service members must be afforded the opportunity to serve in an environment free from unlawful racial discrimination,” said Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael. “The department will review any new information concerning implementation of and compliance with this policy.”
“From the findings of the study, race appears like it plays a big role, which is disheartening,” noted Former Air Force chief prosecutor and Protect Our Defenders president Don Christensen. “It seems to have a sizable role in determining if somebody’s going to go to court or receive non-judicial punishment. I’m really not sure what exactly explains it, and that’s what is really troubling. The military has known about these numbers for decades and has done nothing about it.”
Christensen also pointed to the lack of diversity in the military; 78 percent of military officers were white and only 8 percent were black as of 2016.
“If you look at the leadership of military, it skews very dramatically white and male, and you would imagine that the closer relationships will be with white male subordinates,” Christensen added. “Hence they probably get the benefit of the doubt that the African American males don’t.”
Unfortunately, not having similar and comparable data from the services — who provided Protect Our Defenders differing sets of data — will make it difficult for the Pentagon to pinpoint systemic issues through a one-to-one comparison in order to execute the best solutions.
Regardless, this certainly needs to be investigated further and the appropriate action should be taken.