This week has seen the Air Force, along with the rest of the nation, start to grapple with the painful legacy of race and racism.
And now, the general who is expected to soon be confirmed as the next chief of staff of the Air Force — becoming the first black service chief in U.S. history — has weighed in with his thoughts.
In a heartfelt, powerful video posted on Twitter Friday, Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, who is now commander of Pacific Air Forces, spoke about his feelings on the death of George Floyd during an arrest by police in Minneapolis, and the many other black people who “suffered the same fate as George Floyd.”
And Brown also spoke about what it’s like to “live in two worlds” — on the one hand, often being the only black officer or pilot in the room and hearing insensitive comments, and on the other hand, being accused by other black people of “not being black enough” for hanging out with the rest of his squadron and not them.
“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 began. "I’m thinking about protests in my country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty. The equality expressed in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that I have sworn my adult life to support and defend. I’m thinking about a history of racial issues, and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.”
Brown’s video is the latest in a series of statements and moves by Air Force leadership to address issues of racial inequality, as the nation erupted in protests over Floyd’s death and the issue of police brutality. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, who is also black, first spoke out on Monday, declaring in part, “I am George Floyd.” Current Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein soon followed, sparking a wave of other services’ leaders speaking out.
On Wednesday, Goldfein and Wright held a virtual town hall to discuss racial issues. And the Air Force has also announced an inspector general review of its military justice system, after a series of reports blasted the service for disproportionately punishing young black airmen.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.