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Air Force chief says ‘every American should be outraged’ at George Floyd’s death

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein participate in a sit down discussion during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)
June 03, 2020

In a Monday night memo distributed to various U.S. Air Force commanders, Air Force chief of staff Gen. Dave Goldstein denounced the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, Minn. police custody.

Goldfein described Floyd’s death as a “national tragedy” in the memo.

“New: Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein sent a memo to commanders calling George Floyd’s death a ‘national tragedy,'” tweeted CNN reporter Zachary Cohen, along with a copy of the memo. “‘We will not shy away from this … we will own our part & confront it head on,’ he wrote.”

“Every American should be outraged that the conduct exhibited by police in Minneapolis can still happen in 2020,” Goldfein’s memo reads.

Goldfein also said Americans need to confront the reality of racism and Air Force members need to be aware of it in their own ranks.

“Sometimes it’s explicit, sometimes it’s subtle, but we are not immune to the spectrum of racial prejudice, systemic discrimination and unconscious bias,” Goldfein. “We see this in the apparent inequity in our application of military justice. We will not shy away from this; as leaders and as airmen we will own our part and confront it head on.”

Goldfein indicated in his memo that he had reached out to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and requested the Air Force’s inspector general perform an independent review of the legal system within the Air Force, as well as to review other potential racial injustice and opportunities for advancement within the service.

Goldfein’s memo comes hours after the Air Force’s top enlisted member, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, who is black, posted a high profile Twitter thread about the deaths of black men by police and declared “I am George Floyd.”

“Who am I? I am a Black man who happens to be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force,” Wright tweeted at the start of a 31 post thread. “I am George Floyd…I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice.”

An official who spoke with The Air Force Times said Wright’s intention was not to come off as political, but to voice his concerns about the high profile instances of police brutality that have caused concerns about a racist and unequal enforcement of the law.

“Obviously, it’s something that’s been weighing on his heart as he watched all the events unfold over the weekend,” the official told The Times. “From his position, it’s difficult whenever you speak up, because people worry you’re trying to be political. He’s not trying to be political; he’s trying to share a conversation people need to have.”

Goldfein and Wright’s high profile comments come as protests and riots have spread to cities throughout the country in the wake of Floyd’s death.

In a White House address Monday, President Donald Trump said “all Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd” and said his administration is committed to making sure “justice will be served” for Floyd. As he continued his speech, Trump drew a distinction between peaceful protesting and rioting and called on governors to use their National Guard units to help restore law and order after a weekend of mass demonstrations that saw rioting, arson and looting as well as deadly attacks.