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US Air Force’s top enlisted airman laments George Floyd death, calls for institutional change

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to personnel attending an Air Force Element Senior Enlisted Leader Conference at the Pentagon, April 4, 2018. (DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
June 03, 2020

In the aftermath of the nationwide riots, the country’s top enlisted Airman took to Twitter to vent his frustrations about the alleged racism plaguing the country.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread explaining his fear about being a black man in the United States as the country attempts to end the violence caused by protestors demonstrating against the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.

“Who am I? I am a Black man who happens to be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. I am George Floyd … I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice,” Wright wrote. “Just like most of the Black Airmen and so many others in our ranks … I am outraged at watching another Black man die on television before our very eyes.”

“This, my friends, is my greatest fear,” Wright said, adding that non-black people are incapable of understanding what its like to be a black man, despite having black friends or relatives.

“You might think you know what it’s like to grow up, exist, survive and even thrive in this country as a Black person, but let me tell you, regardless of how many Black friends you have, how Black your neighborhood was, or if your spouse or in-laws are Black … You don’t know,” he claimed. “As I struggle with the Air Force’s own demons that include the racial disparities in military justice and discipline among our youngest Black male Airmen and the clear lack of diversity in our senior officer ranks … I can only look in the mirror for the solution.”

Floyd’s death on Memorial Day sparked many reactions, including peaceful protests and violent riots. There have been several deaths and injuries as a result of the riots across the country.

In the wake of these recent events, Wright said he also needs to do more to help solve the deeper issues surrounding the events that have taken place in the past week.

“I spent the last week, ‘plotting, planning, strategizing, organizing and mobilizing’ just as Killer Mike, the popular Atlanta rapper and activist encouraged us to do,” he said. “Twenty-five of my closest friends (White, Black, Asian, enlisted, officer and civilian) and I have an ongoing dialogue where we began by acknowledging our right to be angry about what is happening.”

“I, the [chief master sergeant of the Air Force], must do better in ensuring every Airman in our ranks has a fair chance at becoming the best version of themselves. While this is a complicated issue … I, along with every other leader across the force, am responsible for making sure it becomes a reality,” he added.