We Humbly Offer  (Part I of IV)

Today, marchers fill our nation’s streets to protest the murder of unarmed black citizens by police, and the Naval Academy responds to vitriolic racism unintentionally broadcast by an alumnus.   While the Sisterhood of Mother B primarily focuses on stories of women in uniform, we recognize the intersectionality of this moment, and feel the need to respond in our own words.  We are, after all, an organization that calls regularly on men to be allies, to not stand by as our sisters are mistreated.  How can we then stand idle in the face of centuries long discrimination our brothers and sisters of color endure, laid bare?

We will not pretend to have been blind to bigotry until this moment.  Nor will we pretend that we are blameless in our fellow citizens’ plight.  As one our founding Sisters pointed out, we are #sisterhoodsowhite, with no women of color among our core contributors and only one among our founders.  As leaders, as friends, as wives, as sisters, we all look back on moments when we should have said more. Done more.  Refused to shrink from uncomfortable confirmation of our own biases.

Over the next week, we will be sharing our founding members’ responses to recent events.  From our different walks of life, and our common service, we humbly offer our grief, our anger, and our suggestions for change.  Our experiences are not steeped in the toxic brew of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial animus.  But we are all too familiar with being othered; of being pre-judged for who we are, rather than what we achieve, of being told to grow thicker-skin-it-was-just-a-joke.  Many of us know the gut-wrenching realization that our physical safety is not guaranteed, and our abusers act with impunity.   More than anything, our hope is to build on this solidarity, recognize our own shortcomings, and learn to be better allies, leaders, and friends.

Change requires more than platitudes.  In this submission, Kate Glynn (USNA’98) recommends concrete steps that USNA and the Fleet should take to address systemic racism.

from Kate McCreery Glynn ’98

To work towards racial justice at USNA, and in the fleet, work needs to be done to normalize POCs in leadership roles, to account for past wrongs, and to make specific policy changes to ensure POCs are not disadvantage today.  It will take deliberate action, not just good intentions.  Yes, for some time this will involve quotas.  Yes, some folks will chafe and cry unfair and claim that white straight men are having their rights denied.   Tough bananas.

To Normalize Minorities in leadership roles:

  • Deliberate staffing to ensure senior ranks include POCs (and more than a token few—I see no reason, for example, that one Battalion officer at USNA should not be female, one a PoC at all times). In the fleet, deliberate staffing to ensure POCs command carriers, MAGs etc.  A deliberate effort like this was made when women were first allowed onto warships:  a female officer first, then female enlisted.  We can do this again, and eventually (hopefully) the practice will no longer be required.
  • Deliberately adding works by minority authors to reading lists. At USNA, some portion of leadership class/history class readings should be by authors of color.  Not just works about racism/homophobia/sexism, but books about history and leadership and war by minority authors and about minorities’ in service/leadership/heroic roles.

To account for past wrongs:

  • Remove names that celebrate Confederates. Change racist unit names (I belonged to the HS-6 Indians, aka the Screaming Redskins.  This was considered the “PC” version of the squadron name, which used to be the HS-6 Indian Maidens with a buxom native girl as our mascot to match… So… Yah…).  Don’t do it quietly.  Do it  to encourage the conversations that come with those changes.  This is a serious signal from senior leadership that racism, even casual racism in the name of tradition, will not be tolerated.
  • At USNA, remove the names of Maury and Buchanan, and actively engage the Naval Academy Minority Association in choosing the replacement names.

Specific Changes to ensure POC arent disadvantaged today:

  • Enculturating the idea that NOT saying something when a shipmate is victimized (even ‘jokes’) makes you culpable in the racist/sexist/homophobic slur. This has to start at OCS/Plebe Summer/Boot Camp.  Make it part of the “Honor Courage Commitment” conversation.  Repeat it, again and again and again. At USNA, this should be a cornerstone of “Don’t bilge your shipmate.”
  • Leadership training (Luce Hall at USNA) focused on leading diverse troops: race, sexuality, gender, religion. Focus on ending bystander culture; case-studies, and serious conversations about institutional bias (for example: Are there statistics on discipline meted out to POCs vs. white Marines and Sailors?).
  • Deliberate staffing to ensure more minority leadership in the entry, discipline, promotion, (Admissions, disciplinary/academic boards at USNA) processes. More people of color in the admissions process:  Blue and Gold officers, Admissions officers, Alumni Admissions Board members.  There will STILL be a chokepoint, since most elected officials granting nominations are not POC, so I have zero issues with quotas.

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