Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Potemkin Color Guard

Walk in somebody's shoes for a bit.
You have worked long and hard to reach a high profile position, as those who came before you had.

You did everything that was asked of you, and more. You believed in a system that told you all you had to do was work hard, pay attention to detail, excel in your efforts, show exceptional dedication, and demonstrate professionalism better than those around you. Do that, you were told, and you will be rewarded.

You understood that nothing was guaranteed - but you also knew that the system was a meritocracy based on fair, established rules that everyone agreed upon when they started.

Why wouldn't you believe that? Those in positions of authority, those whose word was gold, those who asked of you only what they demanded of themselves - they told you so. Because they said it was so, it must be true - it has to be true.

After countless hours of work, dedication, and sacrifice, you finally reached the position of service and honor you hoped for - you made it.

The team you are on is set to make a high profile appearance. You are ecstatic. Happy. You let those who are important in your life know, so they can watch you on TV and perhaps see the results of the hard work you put in for so long.

Then it happens.

The day prior to the event you are told that those in power decided to remove you and a friend from the position you worked so long and hard for. You wonder, "What did we do? Why?"

The reason is rather simple; those in positions of authority did not like your race and gender. Nothing that you did - no - not that. Nothing personal - just business, you know.

Simply by being born, you have been found wanting, and unworthy.

Crushed. Betrayed. Lied to. Those, perhaps, are just a few of the emotions you have.

So, is the above a made up story, or a generalization to make a point?

No. True story from last week.

29 OCT, the USNA Color Guard made an appearance at the World Series. The day prior to their appearance, two Midshipmen were removed from the Color Guard by senior Commissioned Officers in leadership positions at Annapolis for one simple reason; they were white males. That isn't a guess on their part - that is what they were told.

Before I go further, I want to detail a couple of things. I didn't think about running this story after the first notification I received. However, I soon started to receive multiple tips from multiple contacts associated with Annapolis, alumni, and parents.

Over the last few days, working with over a half-dozen very reliable sources, the following story started to flesh itself out.

The day before their appearance, the two MIDN were notified that USNA senior leadership did not like the fact that the Color Guard was not diverse enough. As a result, they were to be removed and replaced with someone with a higher melanin content in their skin, and a female. Boom - there you go.

BZ to the two MIDN involved - word is that they have not taken this blatant racism lying down. Thing is - we don't know what is going on now because the entire Brigade via Company Commanders have been told to refer all questions to the PAO. That is what it is. I have an email in to the USNA PAO's office. Went out late yesterday and I doubt they will reply so soon - but if they do I will update this post appropriately.

I would love to discuss this with the MIDN - but I am not going to ask them to put themselves on report.

Oh, and in any case someone is wondering; I have had no direct contact with either of the two MIDN involved. Nor have I received or asked for information from any MIDN after the squelch order took place; so leave them alone. It isn't about them anyway - it is about a policy that would do this; and the people who execute the policy.

This wasn't a secret over the weekend - the story isn't going to die quickly. Two can keep a secret as long as one of them is dead. Things like this spread like wildfire.

I would like to hear the full story from the USNA side of the house - as this is just plain racism - red in tooth and claw.

It would be great if this was just some great paranoia - some collective misunderstanding and misremembering. That would be a much better thing than officially sanctioned racism, wouldn't it?

Here are some questions the MIDN should ask their leadership if given the chance - any MIDN:
- If the Navy discriminated against two people simply on the basis of their race - at what other times in their career can they expect to be discriminated against?
- In a zero-sum game - does senior leadership realize that to give to one, you have to take from another?
- Is overt racism a valid method to pick one over another? If so, why?

In addition to the integrity of the USNA, the institution it serves, the taxpayers who support it, and the two MIDN discriminated against, there are two other victims of this - the two Diverse selectees. I feel sorry for them as well.

Everyone knows they didn't get there because they were the best - they were there simply because they were good enough to help show a Potemkin image of Annapolis. To do that, they had to steal-by-proxy their position from others based on race and gender. Not something to brag about.

What kind of lessons do we want to teach our future leaders?
- Are hard work, dedication, and working by the rules not the keys to success? No?
- All you need to succeed is to be "good enough," and to be born into one of the protected classes? Really? Is that where we are in the 21st Century Navy?
- If a MIDN is not of a protected class as defined by the Diversity Directorate, then should he consider himself a second class citizen? An officer less worthy simply as a result of his birth?
- Do we tell our officers, "
Some people, you see, are more equal than others." - is that where we are?

Sad. But don't go away sad.

No, there is humor to be found even in the worst stories. This little side-bar also has a happy ending ... of sorts.

One of the Diversity selectees showed why he wasn't on the A-Team that day.
He forgot his cover and his shoes. A rookie mistake to be sure, but again - says a lot. As a result of the rookie mistake - one of the two MIDN who were discriminated against took his place during the ceremony.

Half full? Yes. However, if your glass is half full of wine and half full of bu11sh1t - it still tastes like bu11sh1t.
UPDATE: Late yesterday, I asked USNA Public Affairs the following questions:
(Summary of the above)Could you please confirm the above information is correct.

Additionally, could you also comment on what if any protests have been made formally or informally by the two white male MIDN?

Are there other occasions where changes have been made on "the public face" of USNA due primarily to race, creed, color, national origin, or gender?

Have the MIDN been told not to discuss this issue? If so, why?
This AM, USNA Public Affairs offered the following response:
- The Color Guard is a voluntary extra curricular activity. All members must meet high standards of performance to participate. Members go through extensive training and they are all considered qualified once they are accepted onto the team. 28 midshipmen from all four classes comprise the individual teams that are normally made up of 6 members, but the team size can be adjusted for different situations. Members are selected for events based upon availability, qualification and level of proficiency.

- Background into World Series Event/Decision:
On 28 October 2009, we learned that the Color Guard had been asked to carry the colors at World Series game number 2 at Yankee Stadium. We were excited at the opportunity to represent the Naval Academy in front of our nation and looked at a number of options to ensure our color guard members were fully qualified and available to participate. Upon reviewing the different options, a preliminary option was discussed, but later modified to have a color guard composition of 8 members that would honor the proud work of our team members and highlight the tremendous talents of our many Midshipmen.

Prior to the team's departure on 29 October 2009, this initial course of action was discussed with some specific Midshipmen and because of their valuable insights the final modified plan was developed. Unfortunately, upon arrival at Yankee Stadium, a uniform inventory problem was discovered and therefore, only six midshipmen were present on the field (as even numbers are required). One of the members of the team that did not participate is a second class midshipman that will have opportunities to participate in future events.

Our intent to have all team members participate was not met because one of the midshipmen inadvertently travelled without a required uniform item. While only 6 of the 8 participated in the ceremony, all 8 midshipmen did attend World Series Game2.
Well, there you go.
UPDATE II - Electric Boogaloo: Well, we're getting the right readership today.
UPDATE III - Anthrax Vermillion at the ATM: Navy Times is on the hunt ... and hello to my MIDN Facebook linkers!
UPDATE IV - Leave 'em begg'n for more: Welcome PowerLine readers! If you want the update from here after the Washington Post story ran - please click this.
UPDATE V - Time travel tastes like chicken: More and more people are linking in - so if you want the latest updates - you should click here, here, and then here - in that order.

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