Monday, April 30, 2007

Race and boards

I'm bored today and think for the heck of it I will reach out and give the big 3rd rail a hug - race and the Navy.

I had a very interesting exchange of emails with a more junior officer this week who had a very sincere series of questions/comments on "diversity" and our Navy. This guy is one of the sharper tools we have in the Navy, and the core of his question boiled down to why the Navy is so focused on "Diversity" and what impact it has on boards - his questions a byproduct of
some of the chatter you start to hear as a mid-career officer.

I could put our a few thousand words on this, but instead, I decided to cut-n-paste some of an email (with a few changes) I sent out to the compadre and post here.

Ech. It is a touchy subject - but something I do have a little knowledge of. I will keep his name to myself to protect him. Some questions; one just doesn't ask.

This is my experience, yours may differ.

Race is a huge issue on selection boards. Most officers by the 15-yr mark have see "The Brief" that Millington has put out for a long time. A lot depends on the board WRT the degree of the influence. Now and then there are personalities driving an agenda. As with many things, timing is critical. You would not like what is said or happens sometimes - things well beyond the precept.

A very weak link in what is about as fair of a system humans could design. Having a picture makes it less fair. Having a name makes it unfair. Having people trace race when many of us ... ummm ... people in front of the board are of mixed race and in an honest world would be "other", is unfair.

Having Flag Officers push select lists to board members based on race is borderline criminal - but some Flag Officers get away with it.

It has been so for a long time, and the reasons there are different percentages of minorities among officers, especially for Americans of Sub-Saharan Indigenous Extraction (ASIE) are concerned, are both obvious and unfixable in the short to medium term.

A very high percentage of ASIE are educated in low quality public schools in single parent households compared to other ethnic groups. That is a classic race-neutral formula for under-achievement.

Military service, especially among officers, often runs in families. It gets better every year, but fewer ASIE have a father or grandfather that they know who was in the military as an officer. It takes generations to reach that balance, if you ever can.

As a result, those ASIE who do well or come from intact middle-through-upper class households and therefore achieve the same academic standards as other ethnic/social groups are a much smaller percentage of the whole as the other groups. Those few are highly sought after by industry. Industry is willing to pay much more for their services than the military. To expect the Navy, a service that traditionally has the fewest ASIE officers of any, to reach a model in tune with an inaccurate ethnic description of the country is self-delusional.

I will bring up two people in the military I know fairly well just to give you an example. One's father is an ASIE, his mother is of European extraction. He grew up in a very upper-middle class neighborhood going to private schools. His wife is of European extraction and his kids have light brown hair, fair skin, and blue eyes.

I have another whose parents came to the USA from some island in the Caribbean. They were solid middle-class and he went to college on an academic scholarship. He married an ASIE whose father was a doctor. They both are, and have been, embarrassingly marched about as examples of "diversity."

They have less in common with the enlisted ASIE than their working-class Chief of European extraction. It is pathetic and patronizing, for them, me, or the Navy to pretend otherwise.

And don't get me started on the guy who had a Hispanic last name, blond hair/blue eyes upper-class family who was counted as a "Hispanic" minority for scholarship reasons.

Anyway, that is part of the comforting lie we as a Navy tell each other. It is just a lie - no other way to describe it.

Thing is, the new Midshipmen and Seamen of 2007 were mostly born in 1988/89. I think in '89 one can say that everyone has the same starting point - but the people who are setting high policy were all born from '45-'55 - boomers and all they represent and the baggage they carry.
There is only one reason in mid-2007 for the Navy to have a Diversity Directorate - to cast the widest net to get the best people from both traditional and non-traditional sources - the best as defined by race neutral, color blind standards. You may hear echoes of that - but unfortunately that is not what it is about.

No the Diversity Bullies conduct the worst type of divisive campaign, with a 70's-ish melanin fetish that would make any bigot proud. It is a side of the Navy that does not serve the service or its nation. It is such a corrosive anachronism - but who will stand up and speak against it? In uniform? Who wants to have a viable career? Who doesn't want to be destroyed? Few. And they know it.

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