There’s very little the United States Senate can agree on at this moment, but the “upper house” managed to unanimously agree to confirm Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as the first black man to hold the position of Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Gen. Brown has completed more than 2,900 flying hours — including 130 combat hours — primarily flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The 58-year-old General has commanded a fighter squadron, two fighter wings and the Air Force element of U.S. Central Command.

He is one of only two black four-star commanders in the military out of 41 across all branches —the other being Gen. Michael X. Garrett, who leads the Army’s Forces Command.

The military has had a total of four black four-star officers, including Army Gen. Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993. But Brown is the first to lead one of the military’s branches of service.

As a whole, the military is more racially diverse than the nation, with about 17 percent black active duty members, compared to about 13 percent of the American population as a whole.

The Army has the largest percentage of black soldiers at 21 percent, compared to just 10 percent in the Marines. About 17 percent of the Navy is black, and less than 15 percent of the Air Force.

But these percentages don’t hold as rank increases. While 19 percent of active-duty enlisted troops are black, they make up only 9 percent of the officer corps. One might ask, why?

Last week, the general posted a frank video to social media describing his experiences as an African American in the Air Force and America in general.

“As the Commander of Pacific Air Forces, a senior leader in our Air Force, and an African-American, many of you may be wondering what I’m thinking about the current events surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd. Here’s what I’m thinking about…

“Here’s what I’m thinking about: I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion – not just for George Floyd, but the many African Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd,” Brown said.

Brown said during his career, he has often been “the only African American in my squadron, or as a senior officer, the only African American in the room.” At times, he said, he was questioned by others regarding whether he was a pilot, even when wearing the same pilot’s wings insignia on his chest as his peers.

“I’m thinking about the pressure I felt to perform error-free, especially for supervisors I perceived had expected less from me as an African American,” Brown said. “I’m thinking about having to represent by working twice as hard to prove their expectations and perceptions of African Americans were invalid.”

“I’m thinking about the African-Americans who went before me to make this opportunity possible,” General Brown said in the video. “I’m thinking about the immense expectations that come with this historic nomination, particularly through the lens of current events plaguing our nation.”

He said his new role came with a “heavy burden.”

Despite obstacles, General Brown was able to rise through the ranks during his 37 years of service. While he offers no solutions in his commentary he does at least offer hope.

“I can’t fix centuries of racism in our country, nor can I fix decades of discrimination that may have impacted members of our Air Force,” he said. “I’m thinking about how I can make improvements.”

Let’s hope he can.

2 Responses

  1. Patricia

    Just because there aren’t many black officers, or many in lots of things, doesn’t mean it’s racism. Maybe they don’t want to be, maybe they don’t have qualifications. I’m tired of hearing”there should be more blacks in this or that” just cause they are black isn’t a automatic free card either.

    Reply

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