During the summer of 1965, after his first year at the U.S. Naval Academy, Mike Mullen watched on television from his parents’ surburban Los Angeles home as the black neighborhood of Watts erupted in violence.Does he have any idea how corrosive that self-centered attitude of his is? This isn't about him and his feelings.
For nearly a week that August, a race riot engulfed Watts, resulting in 34 deaths and injuring more than a thousand people. On a map of Los Angeles, the white middle-class suburb where Mullen grew up is close to Watts, but for the young midshipman, the two neighborhoods were worlds apart.
“I was watching my black-and-white television 15 miles from Watts, and Watts was burning,” Mullen recalled today as he helped launch a commission to improve diversity in the military. “And I didn’t have a clue where it was, except that it was somewhere down by the coliseum where I would go as a kid to watch the Lakers play.
“It was a searing experience for me because I didn’t know, and yet I was so close,” he continued. “And that stays with me today, in terms of what I know and what I don’t know, and what I can know having grown up where I did.”
Mullen was a junior officer when then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. instituted reforms to improve race relations in the Navy.
“Zumwalt said, ‘Boom! We’re changing,’” Mullen said of jarring shifts the top Naval officer ushered in. “I was open to this.”
In hindsight, the chairman recalled that this period of sweeping reform was a “very dangerous” and “extremely painful” time in Navy history. It was during this era in 1972 when two nefarious incidents aboard American ships in Southeast Asia highlighted underlying racial tension.
“I would argue that [today] we’re better than that in terms of making this a priority and execution of change,” Mullen said. But he added that change should flow down from top military leaders, many of whom don’t act aggressively enough on behalf of diversity or simply don’t understand its importance.
“If we don’t understand it, we can’t lead it,” Mullen said, “even if we make it a priority.”
Describing another episode that shaped his outlook on military diversity, Mullen recalled an incident from his days as chief of naval operations. In an Aug. 17, 2005 speech to the National Naval Officers Association in New Orleans – just weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and highlighted racial inequities there -- Mullen told the audience that diversity is critical to the Navy's success. A Navy news article quoted him as saying “I believe from my heart that diversity strengthens the very fabric of who we are.”
But Mullen today acknowledged that his presence sent mixed signals. The staff of Navy personnel he had surrounded himself with -- comprised entirely of white males -- did not square with the message he espoused.
“I walked in there with an all-white-male staff,” he recalled. “One of the pieces of feedback I got from that visit was, ‘Nice try, but what about your staff?’ It was a big message.” As a result, Mullen redoubled efforts to diversify his staff, exemplifying the kind of diversifying change he saw as necessary.
Two years after his speech in New Orleans -- and after he had adopted the kind of policies he had championed -- Mullen attended a poignant farewell ceremony for several outgoing members of his personal staff.
“It was absolutely the best staff I’d ever had,” he recalled. “And I can’t remember if there was a white male on that staff.”
We are talking about a zero-sum game here. If you do not chose based on skill and talent, but only by race - then you are no better in your mind than a member of the KKK or New Black Panther Party. Full stop.
For goodness sake - we are talking about our new 18-yr old Sailors who were born during DESERT STORM in the early 1990's - many of their parents were BORN in 1965. What fault do they have - or what blame is theirs to be punished for simply being born?
A focus on race is the cause of the problem, not the solution to the problem.
UPDATE: In case that is a little lame for 'ya - check out the attitude of the President's Diversity Czar, we've mentioned before; Mark Lloyd.
...Mr. Lloyd spoke about the need to remove white people from powerful positions in the media to give minorities a fairer chance.That is the racist attitude at the core of what the Diversity Bullies all strive to do - and from the sound of it what Admiral Mullen is/has done.
"There's nothing more difficult than this because we have really truly, good, white people in important positions, and the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions," he said.
"And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem. But we're in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power."