Abrams thought that everyone who attended the event wore civilian clothes – an important symbol of diminishing military rank. Abrams told the audience “that we will develop an action plan with real meat on the bones to get it after this. This time we will not be patient for a second.”
Abrams, who is white, spoke deeply personally. “From my time, I’ve served very seriously to be a part of the solution, and it was really hard for me to realize this week that I was helping a little bit to remove racism and arrogance in our own ranks.”
There is no indication that the upper brass is coordinating their efforts, but the message is unmistakable. Service members at all levels speak and commanders listen. The military – which Trump often uses to bolster himself as commander-in-chief – is taking a new stance against racial injustice and moving away from the president on this key issue.
They are aware that they risk provoking the wrath of the president, but they are determined to advocate and advocate for improvements in an army that seeks to be diverse.
The conversation takes place in all rows and in installations around the world through social media, speeches, videos and unexpected moments.
One general told CNN that a few days ago a young black officer from the staff told him, “I don’t feel like anyone ever sees me,” as he walked down the halls of the Pentagon.
General reaction? “We need to start listening to what people are saying,” he told CNN describing the conversation.
Painful revelations are shared in all ranks of the military who often do not see members expressing their feelings publicly.
He added: “I think about the history of racial problems and my own experiences that have not always sung about freedom.”
“I think about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers, and then another military member would question me,‘ Are you a pilot? ’” He said.
The Inspector General of the Air Force is now researching the service’s history of military discipline and career opportunities for black service members.
Extreme apology from the country’s highest general
Military leaders also cope with the challenges posed by a president who sometimes tried to draw services into party politics.
Milley noted that his presence “triggered a national debate on the role of the military in civil society. I should not have been there. My presence at the time and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a uniformed officer, it was a mistake I learned and I sincerely hope we can all learn from it. “
Trump is already angry with Defense Secretary Mark Esper over public opposition to the use of active military duties on the streets of Washington during protests – which Milley and Esper had to discuss with the president about what they were doing, several sources told CNN.
Pentagon officials initially tried to suggest that Esper had not separated from the president, but he became so serious that Esper became aware last week that the president might fire him.
Trump has already given up on one Pentagon effort to address the painful racial differences in the country.
On Wednesday, the president tweeted that he would “not even consider” renaming military bases that currently bear the names of Confederate generals. It was a direct objection from the Pentagon leadership.
Esper and Milley have made it known that they supported an army plan presented by its chief politically appointed soldier, Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, to begin a bipartisan national conversation on removing the names of Confederate generals from ten U.S. Army units. The military on Wednesday began a debate on the names of people who could be asked to serve on the board with a blue ribbon questioning the issue.
But the president quickly set out to close the dialogue initiated by his top military leaders, stating in a series of tweets, “my administration will not even consider renaming these Magnificent and Factory Military Plants,” adding: “Respect our army! “He did not address the fact that the idea came from his own high military and defense team.
It is also unclear whether Trump will now try to stop both the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, and the efforts of the Navy Corps Commander, General David Berger, to ban Confederate symbols from their military facilities. Both leaders – who are members of the Joint Chief – pointed out that symbols of division cannot be tolerated in an army that depends on unity among troops to fight and win battles.
The Air Force and Army are expected to issue similar orders, and Esper could consider a similar ban in civilian facilities, although they are aware the president could overturn their decisions, defense officials say.
In recent days, each of the heads of military services, as well as Milley and Esper, have issued public messages about racism in the military. It was the same strategy they used after the 2017 White Charity rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to remind troops that racism is intolerable and to reach a wider audience across the country.
On the contrary, the president seemed to have said goodbye to the white supreme at the gathering, praising “very fine people on both sides.”
But the scale of the challenge facing the military should not be underestimated. Black officers are still underrepresented in the highest ranks, accounting for 19% of service members on the official list, but only 9% of officers. And when he takes over the helm of the Air Force, Brown will be the first black chief of staff of any military branch. Historic for the first 72 years after the executive order of President Harry Truman on July 26, 1948, which desegregated the U.S. military.