Tags: naval academy
For those who are not fully updated or familiar with the latest case of racial discrimination at the USNA, this time involving the Color Guard, please click here to get up to speed, and then come back.
As former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum stated this morning in the Philidelpha Inquirer,
‘It’s not a critical national-security matter when a few white male midshipmen almost get bounced from a color guard. After the Fort Hood killings, however, we should look at the military’s blind commitment to “diversity” and see if it’s blinding us to the obvious – and the dangerous.’
I encourage everyone to read the full article – but the danger he refers to is not the direct danger of an officer with a gun killing his fellow servicemembers wholesale – but is the broader danger an aggressive, exclusionary, close-minded, and corrosive philosophy can have on an institution’s culture – a culture that requires a meritocracy infused with candor to excel in peace and war.
First of all – at the core – what core competency of the Navy is a diverse Navy supposed to represent? One would hope that an organization that serves a nation would reflect its peoples diverse background as a natural by-product of the removal of all barriers to entry based on race, creed, color, or national origin.
The problem is – life is not that simple, clean, or easy. A percentage-to-percentage reflection of a nation’s diversity rarely occurs naturally, even if it is free of institutional discrimination. For reasons that fill up entire library shelves; socio-economic, cultural, family habits and traditions towards education, careers goals, and family structures vary wildly in such a diverse nation as ours.
Especially in high skilled areas of our economy that require a meritocracy due to the financial, life-and-death, or innate performance requirements of the profession; pure balanced diversity is the exception – not the norm. A simple walk through the Doctor’s lounge at your local hospital, a Silicon Valley research facility, a bio-medical lab in the Research Triangle Park, a Los Alamos laboratory, a nuclear power plant, a NFL locker room, or a hedge fund golf outing will show you that even in an open and fair society – perfect diversity is the exception not the rule – and perfect diversity does not equate with mission success.
Where we run into problems is when we refuse to accept reality – when we game the system – when we sell little bits of our soul in order to buy something that cannot be honestly purchased or to curry favor with important people. In a zero-sum game based on objective criteria used to achieve the best possible outcome, when an external factor – in this case race, creed, color, or national origin – is brought in that has nothing to do with the objective criteria, and is used to select a set-group of personnel defined by the external factors, what must be sacrificed to achieve that external factor’s percentage goals are those objective criteria. You intentionally sub-optimize your organization by dilution – replacing high objective criteria scores with low objective criteria scores.
In the case of Midshipmen – when you take out any pure athletic criteria used to bring in some MIDN – the objective criteria can very broadly be broken down to two areas; academic potential and leadership potential. To expand the number of the external factor driven aspects, you have to decrease the acceptance threshold of your objective criteria for those specific external factor sub-groups. As shown by the USNA’s own data – those tradeoffs have been made and continue to be made – specifically to increase self-identified minority MIDN numbers (in addition to the number of those minority candidates who made it using the objective criteria alone). To meet that external factor requirement – a #1 priority as we have been told – lower academic and leadership potential is accepted on the front end (and can be advertised high and low, far and wide) with the hope that enough of the sub-optimal group can maintain minimum standards and make it out the back end.
Of course, that means that some applicants that met the objective criteria of academic and leadership potential will not be accepted – but we have made the decision that higher percentages of minority MIDN are more important than academic and leadership potential. In the zero-sum game that is admissions – that is the first decision we made to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin.
As our MIDN have learned in their first few years exposed to the Navy – that is not the only time racial discrimination takes place.
There are organizations at Annapolis that are voluntary and represent USNA and the Navy. They get their picture taken; this has become a problem.
For instance, the “face of the Navy” that the USNA Gospel Choir and the USNA Crew team show are very different. Is that a problem? No, not really. It is only a problem if, at your core, you see race and racial politics in everything you do – regardless of the reality you live in. The MIDN and their generation don’t care – but they soon learn that those above them do. They care a lot.
This is where we reach another decision point; and we decide to discriminate – selectively. Where Gospel and Crew get a pass – lower profile perhaps – others do not.
You have in the USNA Color Guard a high profile voluntary organization that individual MIDN have spent years building seniority and experience to provide the most professional military bearing to represent the Navy to the nation. Groups such as the Color Guard pride themselves in being a meritocracy of shared discipline, shared values, and shared rewards. They are good because they are fair. They excel because they function on objective criteria – sustained superior performance. At least – that is what they thought.
In late OCT, we had the uniformed leadership at USNA decide that in order to artificially create something they desired to be true, that they would actively intervene and discriminate against two Midshipmen based on their race and gender.
This is fact. This cannot be defended. USNA has tried to spin it. Sandbag it. Confuse the issue with the now infamous “8v6″ saga. What it has not tried to do is explain its actions in any logical and consistent way.
I think it says a lot about the Navy’s Diversity initiatives when we have to hide them, spin them, sandbag them – and when we get caught out in the open – we do something quite Soviet; we issue a gag-order to those discriminated against and their peers after the story breaks. That should cause a moment of self-reflection.
For three weeks on, this story continues to boil. The fact that the USNA discriminated on the basis of race has not been disproved, and the official denials are self-conflicting and debunked. The MIDN involved are not permitted to speak. The relationship between the Commandant of Midshipmen and his Midshipmen has been drastically changed from one of mutual admiration to mutual distrust.
In a larger sense, why has such a small example of what we have seen so often had so much traction? Well, primarily it is because we can identify a name and a face to the innocent party. As opposed to “X number in the reject pile,” we have two MIDN who are soon to be commissioned and in our Fleet. Two MIDN who know personally that they can be discriminated against on the basis of their race and wonder, “When will I be discriminated against again?” Argue that point if you wish, but put yourselves in their shoes; it happened to them once, why won’t it happen again?
Is this really where we want to be as an institution? Does this bring great credit upon the Naval Service? Is there another way?
What is the solution? As with most hard and complicated problems, the answer is simple. Live up to our standards. Demonstrate the innate integrity and fairness of our Navy. Implement a policy that is simple for the PAO, Commandant, and the Midshipmen to understand – and then carry it on to the Fleet. Have a policy that is easy to defend. One you are proud to defend and don’t have to hide from. One you can defend directly with simple, basic words.
Have a policy that we do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin. We do not make selections, limit, expand, or track the professional progress of our Sailors based on their race or ethnicity. Simple. Done. Move forward. Prove it by removing all reference to a Sailor’s racial or ethnic background. Remove all pictures from the all boards. Remove all doubt. They are of limited utility anyway, as we know – names, pictures, and faces are a poor way to understand self-identified race and ethnicity anyway.
Excise and redistribute the BA/NMP for almost all of our branch of the divisive Diversity Industry to other UICs related to supporting Sailors at sea and Marines ashore. The UCMJ has all we need to deal with bigots.
Will there be pressure from the larger Diversity Industry and their backers in Congress? Absolutely – they have jobs to keep and grievances to feed. Will there be a change in the ethnic makeup of those selected for officer programs? Probably. Some racial and ethnic groups will go up – some will go down – some may stay the same. If you have objective criteria – then you shouldn’t care. The Sailors don’t care. They just want someone to treat them fairly, do their job, execute the mission, be a leader, and bring them home from combat intact.
In any event, with more and more mixed-race citizens and minority percentages as a result of immigration patterns in the last 50 years – it will mean less and less with each passing year. That is a good thing. Like we did in the Truman Administration – why don’t we get ahead of the curve on this issue. This is not a time to be stuck in 1971 – we need to get ready for the second decade of the 21st Century.
For those who will object to the change, again – look for the reasons brought up at the beginning of the post; socio-economic, cultural, and family habits and traditions towards education, careers, and family structures. None of these are within the control of the US Navy – nor should they. What can we do? We can ensure that we reach out to all communities in the US – something the Recruiting Districts should already be good at. We could expand JNROTC, as is being done – to help local educators build the academic and leadership potential that is in every community.
Most of all – we should have faith in our people and our institution. Create a fair, just, and admirable institution – and the best will come to you. What would their ethnicity and race be? Who cares – they’re the best. The best attract the best of all colors.
If you value performance, potential, and excellence – that is what you will put your efforts towards – and is what you will get.
If you value race and ethnicity and make your decisions based on that – then you will get what all cultures that emphasize race and ethnicity get; strife, conflict, division, and unending episodes of racial and ethnic discrimination.
As a last note, we all know that these little – and large – “Diversity decision” issues are nothing new in the Navy. We have all, myself included, been party to them. With a wink, a nod, and perhaps a taunt-jawed acceptance – we have all gone along with it. With time and progress however, don’t all archaic theories and methods reach the point that they are no longer valid and usefull?
As with segregation in the past, don’t we have to eventually reach a point were we stop and conduct a little self-reflection? When do we reach the point where we say, “No. This must stop. This has gone on long enough. We are a good, honest, fair, and open institution. Discrimination in any form is beneath the honor and dignity of our Service. This will go on no longer.”
Good people with the best intentions made some hard decisions trying to fix a problem they were sold as a requirement. So hard, it seems, that decisions were made to “bend the curve” and take short cuts using methods that, in the end, they cannot defend and cannot survive the light of day.
As we look towards the second decade of the 21st Century, where next year’s class of Midshipmen were born as Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush challenged each other in the 1992 election – can we say, “Enough,” or will we have to wait for the next episode where we hide, mumble, spin, and blanch at what we have become?
- The Virtue of Being a Generalist, Part 3: Viper and the Pitfalls of ‘Good Enough’
- Midrats 21 Sept 14 – Episode 246: “When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty”
- The Virtue of Being a Generalist, Part 2: Are All Nuggets Created Equal?
- Back to Basics: Restoring the United States Merchant Marine
- On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: “The Carrier as Capital Ship” with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN