The US Air Force’s top enlisted airman wrote a passionate post voicing his outrage over the death of George Floyd in police custody and his desire to change things for the better as protests continued to erupt across the country on Monday.
“Who am I? I am a Black man who happens to be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force,” CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright wrote, expressing solidarity with black men who lost their lives to police brutality.
“I am George Floyd,” Wright, the second black man to become the Air Force’s top enlisted officer, wrote. “I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice.”
“Just like most of the Black Airmen and so many others in our ranks,” Wright wrote, “I am outraged at watching another Black man die on television before our very eyes.”
He said that he realizes that “what happens all too often in this country to Black men who are subjected to police brutality that ends in death” could happen to him, but that is not what scares him the most.
Wright wrote that his “greatest fear” is not that he “will be killed by a white police officer,” 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.”
“This, my friends, is my greatest fear,” he said.
His post comes as the country reels from the death of George Floyd, who died on May 25 after a now-former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck as he was being detained. Chauvin was fired has been taken into police custody and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers involved in the arrest were also fired.
“You might think you know what it’s like to grow up, exist, survive and even thrive in this country as a Black person,” Wright said Monday, “but let me tell you, … you don’t know.”
Wright said that “you don’t know the anxiety, the despair, the heartache, the fear, the rage and the disappointment that comes with living in this country, OUR country every single day.”
“I encourage everyone to fight, not just for freedom, justice and equality, but to fight for understanding,” he wrote.
Reflecting on the current situation, he said that he feels that he has not done enough. “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 rank…I can only look in the mirror for the solution.”
“I, the CMSAF must do better in ensuring every Airmen in our ranks has a fair chance at becoming the best version of themselves.”
Just last week, the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders called out the Air Force for reportedly not only disproportionately punishing black airmen but covering up the data. Wright said Monday that he is working with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to improve the military justice system.
“We will look to uncover where the problem lies, and how we can fix it,” he wrote. “We are also working to improve the diversity of our force, especially within the senior ranks.”
“I don’t have all of the answers, but I am committed to seeing a better future for this nation,” Wright said, saying that he is chasing “a future where Black men must no longer suffer needlessly at the hands of White police officers, and where Black Airmen have the same chance to succeed as their White counterparts.”