By Peng Chunli彭春丽
America’s first African Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently called for addressing racial discrimination by thoroughly investigating extremism in the ranks, including racism and anarchist extremism. Analysts said, for a long time, racial discrimination is not only a common phenomenon in the US military, but also deeply rooted in American values and culture. The military shakedown is more symbolic than realistic, and America is quickly stepping down from its self-claimed pedestal for democracy and human rights.
The long-standing racial discrimination
According to a report on its racist problems issued by the US Air Force in December 2020, African Americans in the air force, ranging from senior officers to the ranks, are subject to widespread discrimination in treatment, promotion and punishment.
When General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. was appointed Chief of Staff of the Air Force in 2020, he said point-blank that his success didn’t mean liberty and equality. Austin, in an interview on March 21, also said he has met numerous obstacles in his military career ever since he became operations officer of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1995, and white supremacy has become a conscious prejudice in the military.
According to a survey conducted by The Institute for Veterans & Military Families at Syracuse University, about 1/3 of active service members in the US claimed to have witnessed white supremacy or extremism in the military, such as the swastika sign, white-supremacist tattoos, KKK stickers, and Nazi salutes between soldiers.
Why has racism existed in the US military for such a long time? On the one hand, the top brass is still dominated by the whites, and white supremacy is usually associated with patriotism and American rejuvenation. On the other hand, after the Iraq War and the Afghan War, the US military has a much larger demand for new recruits and has kept silent on the racist problems in order to enlist enough soldiers, even helping the applicants to cover up their extremist tattoos. Such American-style double standards have been seriously questioned by the outside.
Resurgence of Asian discrimination
Compared with the widely noticed African Americans, Asian Americans have received little attention as mainstream media tend to keep quiet on discrimination against them. However, an outburst of Asian discrimination resurge in the US lately.
A recent report released by Stop AAPI Hate, an American organization, shows that 3,795 Asian discrimination events of various types were reported from March 19 in 2020 to February 28 in 2021. On March 21, protests were organized in tens of cities across the US against discrimination and hate crimes toward Asians, the largest-scale protest of this type in recent years, yet America’s mainstream media, such as New York Times and Washington Post that like to pride themselves on objectivity and neutrality, collectively kept silent on the topic.
Statistics show that soldiers of African descent account for about 9% in US military and those of Asian descent 4.8%, the latter being subject to equally serious racial discrimination.
On April 2, 2011, Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew shot himself at his barracks in Afghanistan due to sustained discrimination and abuse.
On October 13, 2011, Asian-American private Danny Chen was found dead on duty after enduring intolerable racial hazing and harassment.
With the increasingly divided politics in the US over recent years, some politicians are even publicly rooting for white supremacy, adding fuel to racial discrimination in American society. While the US is smearing and lying about the human rights situation in other countries, it always plays down the grave human rights problems on its own soil, which exposes the hypocritical nature of the so-called American democracy.
Will the shakedown really work?
Will the latest shakedown ordered by Defense Secretary Austin work on the long-standing racism in US military? Well, there are two questions to answer. First, did the Department of Defense (DOD) take the step really to root out racial discrimination or for some ulterior motives? Second, is the DOD under Austin’s charge capable of rooting out the problem?
There is no doubt that addressing racial discrimination has always been the right choice to be “politically correct” in the US rather than a way to really solve the problem. Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on March 29 that the 60-day stand-down is not ordered to collect information from the military, but to reinforce its values. Matt Gaetz, a member of the US House of Representatives, criticized Austin’s investigation into military extremism just for turning the DOD from a capable organization into one controlled by left-wingers.
Besides, although the shakedown was mainly targeted at white supremacy, Austin didn’t pinpoint it directly, but defined it as extremism with a broader sense, and it’s not hard to guess why.
It is said that the DOD is unsure about the scope of extremist problems in the military yet or has any specific data. A few weeks ago, members of the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services said at a hearing that the DOD only demanded its commanders to spend one day talking to their troops about extremism in the ranks, but it was impossible to fully grasp the situation of racial discrimination within one day. Obviously, the senior officers at Pentagon didn’t do enough to get to the bottom of the issue.
For a long time, the US has been practicing double standards in a wide range of areas, and the DOD has never clearly defined what extremism means. It’s foreseeable that the recent shakedown ordered by Austin will be more symbolic than really effective, and racial discrimination in American ranks will continue to exist for a long time to come.