Thursday, July 02, 2020

Diversity Thursday

We are in the middle of a national moral panic, and it is bleeding over in the the USN. Like most moral panics, it starts with an actual event that soon morphs in to something completely unrelated and unhinged. I don't think I need to provide more of an outline than; a bad cop killed a man in Minneapolis, and as a result we are pulling down statues of Teddy Roosevelt, Columbus, scraping names off of historic ships, and slashing NYC police budgets in the face of a crime wave.

Before we dive in, let's review a few things I think we need to cover first.

As regulars here keep emailing me about, we have not done many DivThu lately. I've never liked the topic, and as of late, what was already a minefield has become even more dangerous. I've dialed up the gain a bit, so it takes a strong signal to break above the background noise to justify a DivThu, at least for me. I shouldn't let the threats and deplatforming attempts get under my skin, but I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't say it was part of it too. I'll spare you the details, but if I quit DivThu 100%, I'll let the bastards win, so it is time.

As we have new readers all the time, I guess I should outline some fundamentals. DivThu is based on one thing; people should be treated equally and as individuals. Group rewards and punishments based on race, creed, color, and national origin do nothing but divide nations. Individual bias against people based on race, creed, color or national origin is a cancer that needs constant monitoring and correction when discovered. In their frustration, there are some well meaning people who cannot accept that there are differences in people and cultures, there always have been, but they won't acccept this reality and want to blame differences on direct, malicious action, always. 

In trying to "make the metrics work" they propose actions which use the same bad behavior they think they are trying to correct; they discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin. When this happens, someone has to speak up. This is 2020, not 1962. Sailors coming to boot camp today were mostly born after 911. The were in grade school when Barack Obama was elected President.

There are also bad players out there. They don't make mistakes from well meaning gestures and policies - they intentionally strive to stoke conflict. Their jobs or their entire world view are undermined if there is unity, reconciliation, and reason. They require emotion, strife, and lower brain stem grievance. When these people show up, people have to stand up or you will see your unit, service, or nation torn asunder as history shows us where this leads.

When it comes to our Navy, we have a lot to be proud of when it comes to being a merit based, inclusive organization - especially the last half-century. Since I became associated with it in the 1980s, concerns about inclusiveness and anti-discrimination have been a constant point of training, discussion and concern. As our intake is our host nation's outtake, we have to filter and adjust what our nation creates in its culture and education system as young men and women join us. As any review of demographic data will show, there are significant differences in different groups of people when it comes to educational achievement, crime rates, and desire to serve. The reasons are varied, but they are part of the entering equation. As such, our Navy and its various career paths will never "look like America" because that simply is not possible if you use balanced, fair, and objective criteria from accession to retirement with the raw material we bring in from society. The only way to do that would be to practice what you are fighting against - judge people by the superficial and useless characteristics of race, creed, color, or national origin (though, tbh, with some national origin there might be additional security interviews). We must ensure equal opportunity. All doors must be open. A close eye needs to be kept to make sure that the institution and those in power in it practice the same.

Those who say things such as "equal opportunity" and "color blind" are in some way bad are telling you one thing; they want unequal opportunity and to give preference by race. Those people are not well meaning people.

That is DivThu 101. In these delicate times, it needed to be reset. Now, back to where we started.

We are in a moral panic. As with most moral panics, it started with a legitimate complaint. In this case, the egregious killing of an unarmed African American man by the police.

Through history, moral panics grow when a legitimate issue is the spark that ignites larger mob action when the conditions are ripe for other players to throw gasoline on passions. These opportunists have grievances long-standing that they have been waiting for an opportunity to emerge that they can hijack, leverage, and pursue their agenda. These opportunists collect along the way a popular front that includes those who have legitimate concerns, a mass of a panicked herd looking for something to join to give meaning to their otherwise empty lives, and other people who just like to lash out.

These are the people you see; the popular front on the discontented.

There is also a larger mass of people who are either befuddled, unconcerned, or more likely just want to get on with their lives raising their families, making the mortgage payment, and making another day. There are organizations like that as well. They think they are doing the right thing, and when everything around them is in chaos, they want to make sure they are doing the right thing.

Regular checks are a good thing when done for the right reasons with the right people. I believe that is what led to the following;
The U.S. Navy stood up a special task force on June 30 to address the issues of racism, sexism and other destructive biases and their impact on naval readiness, the chief of naval personnel public affairs office said in a release.

“Task Force (TF) One Navy” will be led by Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, who will report his findings to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday via the Navy’s chief of personnel, Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr.

“As a Navy — uniform and civilian, active and reserve — we cannot tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind. We must work to identify and eliminate individual and systemic racism within our force,” Gilday said. “That is why we are standing up Task Force One Navy, which will work to identify and remove racial barriers and improve inclusion within our Navy.”
At first read, this seems fine ... but that opening paragraph made me wish the CNO had better writers and staff on these issues, as there are some problems. Let's pull this bit out,
...racism, sexism and other destructive biases and their impact on naval readiness
Is the implication ... or worse, assumption here that our Navy suffers from racism, sexism and other destructive biases to the point it impacts readiness?

If so, why are we waiting until now to act? Did we not see it before? The policies and actions for decades did nothing? If you think there is an entering bias here, you may be right.
The task force will seek to promptly address the full spectrum of systemic racism, advocate for the needs of underserved communities, work to dismantle barriers and equalize professional development frameworks and opportunities within the Navy.
This is when it should have been sent back for staffing. Are we assuming there is "systemic racism" in the US Navy? What barriers do they see? Define "equalize professional development."

This is not going in a productive way, but this could just be poor writing.
“We must use the momentum created by these events as a catalyst for positive change. We need to have a deeper inclusion and diversity conversation in our Navy and amongst our own teams.”
That is the political speak of "don't let a good crisis go to waste."

Well meaning people, given the volume of email I've received on this, are concerned - and I think their concerns are justified.
TF One Navy will focus their efforts in recommending reforms in several key areas. These areas include:

- Recruiting/barriers to service entry
- Pre-accession mentorship frameworks/scholarship opportunities
- Diversity of talent by community/talent management
- Training/education along the service member career continuum
- Detailing/milestone job opportunities
- Fitness reporting/evaluation systems
- Promotion/advancement processes
- Military justice analysis of racial disparity
- Health care and health disparities
This is a mixed bag. Some very solid things such as health care issues based on demographics are sound - and aligned with modern, but at times controversial, scholarship on this topic.

What is bad is the following; promotions, detailing and FITREPS are a zero-sum game. How are they getting their metrics? How are they going to balance them? If my mother was from Ireland and my father African American, my wife is half-Philippina, half-Ecuadorian and our son joins the military, how do we advise him to self-identify his race/ethnicity? If he doesn't, or chooses incorrectly, with all other things being equal, will his odds of promotion differ?

Is that productive? Is that good? Would such an environment be productive or counter-productive to unit cohesiveness?

The article ends with what really should be the only thing that needs to be said on the topic by the CNO or any Navy leader;
“We must demand of each other that we treat everyone with dignity and respect. If you won’t do that, then our Navy is not the best place for you,” Gilday said. “We are one team, and we are one Navy.”
No one can disagree with this, not a soul.

Hope isn't a plan, but here's my hope; the CNO and the admirals quoted here were poorly staffed and responded with inarticulate talking points. The task force will be staffed with well meaning professionals who understand the seriousness of their assignment, don't assume the worst of their Navy, and will produce a report that all Sailors can look at and feels good about.

We'll see.

Hopefully they will have better critical thinking skills than the Sierra Club.

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