As the Army taught me at CGSC, Bottom line up front (BLUF).
|Sorry, Sarge, I lifted this photo from your post, but I thought it deserved a double play.|
I feel more kinship with the people in this photo, than ANY member of Black Lives Matter. Those folks in the picture are Americans. I'm not sure what BLM folks are. Communists, Terrorists, Thugs are terms that come to mind, Americans, however, does not.
Sarge's post details his growing up in a "small town in Vermont I was surrounded by white faces". I did not.
I don't remember much of my childhood before Dad was assigned to Webb AFB in Big Spring, Texas. (Yes, it is single spring. We identify outlanders by their referring to Big Springs.) We lived on base and rode the bus to school. The first bus stop was at our front door. The bus would then progress up the hill and through the rest of the housing area before leaving the base and depositing us at school. There were a lot of kids and by the time the bus got to the last stop, it looked a lot like a Japanese subway train, complete with the "pushers", pushing on the last few kids trying to make room for one more.
Because of this, many wiser kids walked down the hill to our house to be the first on the bus.
So, Everyone knew where we lived. Everyone knew that the youth center, playground and ball fields was right across the street from our house. Everyone knew that directly across the street was a perfect field for playing football. Everyone came down the hill. We played with everyone regardless of race.
And to the best of my recollection, none of the kids gave a tinkers dam about the color of another kid's skin. We played with whomever showed up, and as long as they played well with others, we got along pretty well. There were squabbles for sure, and a few fights, and undoubtedly some hurt feelings. However, nobody cared about any of that, certainly not the parents. "Handle that yourselves" was what we'd be told.
Truth be told, I think it was because we lived on a flying training base, America was at war, and we all realized that our Dads were all likely to go and participate in that war when this assignment was up.
In short, the color of someone's skin was the least of our worries.
We'd been there a few years and I was now old enough to have a "real" job. Not babysitting or lawn mowing. A "real" job, where I had to punch a clock and be on time, and had responsibilities and....got a pay check. I think I was paid $1.25/hour to be a busboy at the Webb O'Club. Talk about Hog Heaven! I'd take home about $25 per paycheck! I was, to quote Ron White, Loaaaaaadddddded! The ceiling in me and my brother's room soon looked like an Eighth AF Raid on Germany for all the model airplanes hung there.
The Maitre'D of the dining room was named Sgt Coffey. I'm not sure what Sgt Coffey's job was in the Air Force, but he moonlighted at the Club. Given that my sample size of bosses at this time was one, I'd say he was pretty fair. Told me what he wanted me to do and how it should be done and checked that I was doing it that way from time to time. Didn't lord his authority over me. So, an ok boss.
I got along quite well with the cooks in the back. Part of my responsibility was to carry the trays with the meals out from the kitchen to the table and set them up on the stand for the waitress to serve. Because of that, I spent a lot of time in the Kitchen area. There were two cooks, one fairly old, probably about 30 the other had just turned 20. As I said, we got along well, engaging in a lot of, what would later become known as, "trash talkin", but we got the job done.
Sgt Coffey had a daughter with whom I became pretty good friends. Cecilia was pretty and funny and definitely part of the "in" crowd. I was none of those things, so I'm not sure how we ended up being friends. We did though.
The fact that all the above mentioned folks were black, mattered none whatsoever.
As with all things human and military, time passes, friends come and go and things change. I go off to college, get a commission, get my wings, fly the F-4 at two bases, fly the AT-38 and then the F-15. Being fairly senior by now, I become a flight commander in the Eagle Squadron. I'm in "command" of 6 guys, which means I write their fitness reports and manage their training requirements. Command at that level was nothing like I thought it would be. Boring!
One of those guys was Bones. I've written about him several times and as I look back on my AF career, I view my association, and friendship, with him as one of the highlights, second only to meeting and marrying my wife. A great guy, funny as hell. Loyal, able to stay with his flight lead through multiple X V X engagements both in the air and at the bar. A good friend, and outstanding wingman who grew into a great flight lead. Last heard, he and his wife, are missionaries still on Okinawa.
He is black. So, what?
|Bones is front row, fourth from the left|
Also at Kadena, my wife's deputy and her husband became good friends of ours. So much, in fact, that they became the de facto Godparents of Little Juvat. Her husband was a Tanker Nav and could run a tanker rejoin with the best of them. It was comparatively easy given the radar information, thrust and turning ability of the Eagle to do a fighter turn and join up with the tanker ourselves. However, when you're going somewhere and gas is a little tight, turning away from the way you're going is somewhat wasteful. Having the tanker turn and roll out on your heading with you in the contact position is a thing of beauty. He could do that, probably in his sleep. He did just that on a trip to the PI. We were in the weather, and I'm staring through the clouds trying to see this gray tanker in gray clouds. I can't see him looking under the canopy bow, and am starting to think I may need to break off the intercept when I hear the boomer call visual. I glance up above the canopy bow and there's the tanker. Boomer clears me to the contact position, I move forward about 5' and he plugs me.
Competence. What a thing!
His race had not a thing to do with his ability to do his job.
As I said, his wife was my wife's deputy at the time, she went on to retire as an O-6 and then pursued a career in Civil Service where she's now a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force.
Nice lady, and smart as a whip.
In a political position like that, was race a factor? Who knows? I know she is qualified to do the job and has done it well, what more is there?
Leaving Kadena, I went to Command and General Staff College (CGSC) and then School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). While at SAMS, we went on several field trips, all of which were enlightening to this fighter pilot dropped into a sea of Army. We walked the Vicksburg battlefield, watched a tank battle unfold at NTC at Ft Irwin, visited the Pentagon where we had a 45 minute discussion with General Powell. My roommate for all those trips was probably the smartest man I've ever met.
While in Vicksburg, we were out for a run. (As an aside, don't make a habit if you're a 6' 200 lb fighter pilot of trying to keep up with a 6'5" 165 lb Ranger on a run.)
We're running by one of the battlefields that's been maintained intact. I ask him why the trench zigzagged up the field. He stops and tells me to go up to the top and then starts to make his way up the trench, asking me to yell "bang" whenever I see him. I only got to see him as he changed direction at the zigs. Learned something that day.
Later on, I got to show him video from "my Office", a 4 v 4 engagement starting from 50 miles. Over in about 2 minutes. He learned something that day.
At the time, he was a junior Captain and I was a Major. I retired as a Lt Col, he's the current UN Forces Command Commander in Korea, wearing 4. I remember bitching about something somewhere and his response has stayed with me ever since. He said, "Juvat, Excellence is it's own punishment."
At no point in my relationships with these people, did I think of them as black. I was aware they were, of course, but never had to worry about calling them something they might find offensive. I wouldn't have done that, any more than I would say something offensive to any other group of people. I'm pretty sure that any way you divvy up humanity, each group has some name that might be offensive. If I feel the need to be offensive, I'm going to be offensive to a specific person, not to a group.
I don't make any judgement, good or bad, of a person based on the color of a person's skin. I do make that judgement on their actions and the circumstances of the situation. If you're hanging out late at night, dressed with your pants around your knees, listening to loud music, in a large group, smoking who knows what, I'm going to be making some judgments and taking appropriate action, regardless of the color of your skin. It is not humanly possible or advisable to avoid doing so.
The flip side of that is true also. I'm tired of hearing that white people are racist, simply because they are white. According to Merriam Webster dictionary, racism is "poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race". Given recent events in Charlotte, it's apparent there ARE racists in America, only some of whom are white.
*Martin Luther King