Editor’s Note: Brett L has graciously allowed his Afternoon Links to be preempted today so that Mustang’s time-critical post can go up. Thanks, Brett!
I may be asked to discuss current events in a small group setting about diversity and inclusion. For context, it is written for a small military audience, mostly very senior officers and enlisted leaders.
There are two distinct things that are colliding right now. On the one hand, we have an unaccountable bureaucracy with an enforcement arm that feels immune from repercussions. On the other hand, we have minority communities that have been ravaged by socioeconomic policies that were first created to keep them poor and, following a righteous movement for equal treatment before the law, have poured over into all segments of society, resulting in a class divide that widens at a breakneck pace, swallowing everyone, regardless of the color of their skin. When these two forces collide, the result is the same as it always has been…violence on both sides. We have a State that does not like to have its power questioned and we have an aggrieved population that views that State with a sense of betrayal and mistrust. This is not politics; this is history. This is economics. It is exacerbated by politics and an educational system that has failed their communities.
Those socioeconomic policies were enacted decades ago, amid a country wrestling with a racist past and an identity crisis. These policies were enacted to protect the largely white, working class men from competition by making it too expensive to hire that competition. Labor laws that have been championed throughout the years artificially inflated the cost of labor, and in doing so, have relegated minorities to communities with few options for escape.
During the Civil Rights era, these minority communities rightfully fought for equal protection under the law. Unfortunately, that equal protection priced them, and increasingly poor white communities, out of the labor market. We see its effects now through the ever-increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor. We see it in the decline of young people in the labor market. Business owners, when faced with the challenges of complying with these regulations, simply cannot afford to hire young and/or unskilled labor, minority or otherwise.
Additional policies controlling the price of housing and business in city centers have made housing unaffordable. It’s nearly impossible for developers to create affordable housing. It has instead been replaced with barely-functional government housing, paid for by empty promises from people who make their living buying votes from the communities they claim to serve. Those same people prevent affordable, effective schooling by making choice illegal. The opportunities for a better education do not exist because they are banned under the false pretense that funneling money towards successful school choices rather than failing public schools is a bad thing. These communities are, quite literally, banned from advancing. It is a race to the bottom and minority communities have a head start, but with these policies now being enforced everywhere, Americans from every racial background are suffering as a result.
And who is enforcing those socioeconomic policies? Law enforcement that is behind the wall of qualified immunity, backed up by a grab-bag of petty crimes that do not have any real victims, protected by police unions that shout down any suggestion for accountability, and subject to ever-lower standards being put in place in order to make up for a supposed lack of diversity in the ranks.
Power corrupts. This adage is as old as a time and it is true here. It is doubly true for people who feel shielded from their actions in court and who haven’t been required to reach a higher standard. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to look at the standards currently required to become a Military Police officer. Near as I can tell, there aren’t any additional requirements beyond the basic standards for joining the military. I love my job, but I have never seen myself in law enforcement. I try my hardest to look at things from an outside perspective, and that includes my own career field, and when I do that, it becomes clear to me that law enforcement officers have been set up to fail from the start. If we want to hold our law enforcement officers accountable, we must advocate for the removal of qualified immunity, demand an end to the police unions that shield its members from repercussions, and reduce or eliminate the laws that create the victimless crimes that are used to target these communities.
If we ignore economics and history, it would be understandable to look at this situation through the lens of racism. That used to be the case. It is not anymore. Black-on-black crime is the largest killer of black men in the US, outside of health considerations. More black police officers kill more black men than white police officers do. If we were being honest about black lives mattering, we would be lining the streets in places like Chicago, where dozens of black men are killed every weekend without even a mention, demanding the removal of political policies that prevent minority communities from advancing, instead of waiting for the next news cycle outrage to whip people into a frenzy.
I want to make something perfectly clear though. This is not meant to be racist. It is a statement of fact and is in no way meant to denigrate the African American community, imply that it is more prone to violence, or any other horribly racist ideas that are typically attributed to these statements. What it does highlight is that it is not a problem that exists solely between black and white. These stats are the result of decades of socioeconomic policies that have resulted in minority communities suffering from a lack of education and work opportunities.
What does all this mean for the military? It means that when minorities join, they join at a disadvantage. They join a system that they have not been prepared for in any way. The result of this is the same within the military as it is outside of it…more minorities involved in petty crimes or failing to adapt, leading to the perception that racism is the issue rather than socioeconomic policies. This leaves people from these communities having to work twice as hard just to adapt to life in the military.
We have asked for solutions to end so-called racial disparity in the ranks and in doing so have fallen into the same trap that plagues law enforcement across the country…we are opening ourselves to the possibility of lowering standards to address a problem that has been incorrectly diagnosed. The answers to these problems are not within the ability of the military to fix. They require a socioeconomic shift that can only occur by freeing poor communities from the regulations that stifle their educational and business opportunities. I cannot stress this enough…I want to help people of all races. I recognize that in recent American history, minority communities were the target of policies designed to prevent them from succeeding, but now those policies have spread to all communities. The result is increased housing costs, increased labor costs, and fewer opportunities for education for all people.
If we want to have this discussion, we need to be willing to recognize where the real problems are. These discussions, where white people are treated as though they cannot erase the original sin of racism, where minorities are told that all issues in life are due to the color of their skin, are terribly counterproductive and will only deepen the animus between Americans. Every single one of us has biases, both good and bad. The entire point of these diversity and inclusion initiatives is to bring together people with different biases to provide new and creative ways to accomplish a mission. We ask penance for sins that we can never be absolved of, and when we leave here, we wonder what it is that we’ve really accomplished. If we want these discussions to be productive, then I implore each of us to look past what we are being told is the problem and dig deeper to find the actual, real obstacles that hold our communities back.
We are bombarded by a news cycle that has a financial incentive for everyone in this room to make decisions based on emotion rather than critical thought. There is so much more that we can do, but until we remove the economic barriers that prevent choice in urban areas, we will never see an end to this cycle of violence.
If the military is going to pick a side, and it has picked sides whether we want it to or not, then it needs to advocate for the elimination of the barriers to success I have highlighted here in order to accomplish its mission and protect all Americans, regardless of who they are or what they look like. I am deeply wary of using our military in such a manner, but Pandora’s Box has been opened. I hope that we can use that power appropriately.