The US Air Force’s top enlistee said he’s “outraged” by the death of George Floyd, vowed to do more to fix the racial inequality among ranks and encouraged his fellow airmen to fight for justice and equality, and understanding.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright posted on Twitter Monday, “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.”
“Who am I? I am a Black man who happens to be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. I am George Floyd,” Wright said.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died Monday in Minneapolis police custody after video showed him pleading for air as an officer knelt on his neck. Floyd’s death has sparked protests and unrest across the nation as demonstrators demand police reform and justice served to Floyd’s arresting officers.
Wright said Monday that what happened to Floyd and occurs “all too often in this country to Black men who are subjected to police brutality that ends in death” could happen to him or any black airman – regardless of rank.
“I hope you realize that racism/discrimination/exclusion does not care much about position, titles or stature….so yes, it could happen to you,” he wrote.
Wright, who’s responsible for 410,000 enlisted members, said his “greatest fear” is “not that I will be killed by a white police officer (believe me my heart starts racing like most other Black men in America when I see those blue lights behind me) … but that I will wake up to a report that one of our Black Airmen has died at the hands of a white police officer.”
Wright said he struggles with the “Air Force’s own demons” of racial disparities in military justice and discipline and the “clear lack” of diversity in leadership.
“I can only look in the mirror for the solution,” he wrote, concluding that “whatever I have done in the past is just not enough.”
Wright said he’s working with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to conduct a “full and thorough” independent review of the military justice system to “uncover where the problem lies, and how we can fix it.”
He also said they are working to improve the diversity of the force, particularly in its senior officer ranks.
Wright also made an impassioned plea to his fellow servicemen to take action.
“Like me, acknowledge your right to be upset about what’s happening to our nation. But you must then find a way to move beyond the rage and do what you think is right for the country, for your community, for your sons, daughters, friends and colleagues … for every Black man in this country who could end up like George Floyd,” Wright wrote.
He urged his readers to “vote, protest peacefully, reach out to your local and state officials, to your Air Force leadership and become active in your communities.”
“We didn’t get here overnight so don’t expect things to change tomorrow,” he added.