Today Kings, I ran into a letter that blown me away. I ran across letter that was written to the CO at this sailor's command. Being a Navy veteran myself, I found this letter to be bold and refreshing. To see that someone brave enough email this DIRECTLY to their skipper reestablished my faith!
This sailor had a message and we hope that the skipper receives this letter in good faith and can acknowledge the candor they had in writing this. This is truly how you speak to power. With truth. The letter reads:
**In response to my CO’s email on Racism**
I got my whites ready because somebody had to say it.
Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately they are just that. Words. I have noticed that in almost every email. Someone inserts an instruction or further expounds upon the subject at hand. However for this particular subject the most uncomfortable, the most relevant at this moment in time, no one has said a thing. That HURTS. It’s hard to walk into work and smile knowing that I have to walk back out and see black people being hurt physically, emotionally, and financially.
There is a divide in America sir and it was put there by racism, bigotry and ignorance. We can talk about COVID. We can talk about travel restrictions. We can talk about maintenance. We can talk about a Picnic. We can talk about EVERYTHING ELSE. So that tells me one of two things. Racism doesn’t directly affect people enough to speak out about it or they think that if they ignore the issue it will go away. The excuse that it’s an uncomfortable subject fell on deaf ears as far as African American sailors under YOUR COMMAND. If it is uncomfortable for you to talk about as a Commander in the United States Navy.
I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for you to talk about as a friend, as a father, as a husband, as a son, as a mentor and as a brother. So just imagine being an African American Enlisted Sailor in the United States Navy where you’re not given that luxury. We HAVE to talk about it because we have to worry about what happens if we don’t. Not just career wise but life wise. Remember you have to work twice as hard. Play the game you already have a few strikes against you.
Not strikes because I’ve done anything wrong but strikes because I am BLACK AND FEMALE OR MALE. It doesn’t even matter. I’m sure you think not in our Navy, not in our command. YES SIR IN THIS NAVY AND YES SIR AT THIS COMMAND. Imagine not being seen as respectable and having to prove yourself because of who God made you to be. I couldn’t just pick a skin color nor did I decide I would be female or male. Then you go home and it’s don’t move too fast when you are approached by law enforcement.
Keep your hands in the air and if he tells you to move them ask him if he’s sure. When you go into a store always buy something so they don’t think you’re stealing. Talk this way so they feel less threatened by you. I always wondered who are THEY and why am I seen as a THREAT. Til this day I still wonder but then I realized as I grew older even doing all that there’s always a chance that I could possibly be a target. That someone could kill me because of their dislike for my skin. Not my personality. Not my demeanor. Not a crime I committed but for THE COLOR OF MY SKIN AND WHAT THEY FEEL THAT REPRESENTS.
Even in military housing I’ve seen children not be able to play with another child because oh his Dad is black you know how they are. WHAT? This is TAUGHT. I’m always made to remember who I am and where I am. However if no one has looked at the news lately Americans are protesting all over the country because for some odd reason. Law enforcement has been able to take the lives of unarmed black men, women and children over and over again without being held accountable for it. When has speeding, resisting arrest, sleeping, playing with a toy gun, jogging or selling cigarettes outside a store warranted a death sentence.
I’ve seen my shipmates justify black people’s death by saying well they shouldn’t have, or maybe if they would’ve....when Dylan Roof can go into a church and kill 9 people THEN be retained and taken to get Burger King. THERE IS A HUGE ISSUE HERE. I’ve seen people that look like me be killed for less. LESS. On the news. On the Internet. In the street. In the United States of America. 2020. A country that I serve as a Black American. People that look like me are killed for less. Unarmed. Not being a threat. Educated. Uneducated. Wealthy. Poor. It doesn’t matter. The common denominator is blackness.
Every time I am pulled over I pull out my military I.D card. Want to know why? Because that might make me seem more respectable or maybe just give me that much more leeway to be treated like a human being. Never in my life have I wanted to call law enforcement to help me. Want to know why? Because I am afraid they might think I’m the subject of the call and accidentally shoot me. So how do you think your sailors feel when they see people on the news that look just like them being gunned down. Week after week after week. Then these officers are put on paid administrative leave or fired. That says to me that my life doesn’t matter and not only does it not matter. They don’t care to hide that it doesn’t matter. Not a court hearing. Not a trial. Just death in their homes, in their communities, in front of their families. So when we talk about protests and our SEL says at the bottom of his email this is your right as an American citizen but make sure you stop by so we can talk to make sure you return with honor. That further makes me feel like no one cares and you don’t have to say it. You show it.
He could’ve left that out but for some reason it just had to be said. He could’ve just said in light of certain situations and for your well being please stop by my office so that we speak before you go protest. And sir you could’ve said something sooner but you didn’t. You could’ve sat us down and talked to us. Even if it didn’t change anything at least we know that YOU CARE. A Brown Bag, Blue Bag SOMETHING. If we can have divisional quarters we can have a quarters devoted to the well being of our sailors that are PERSONALLY affected by racism.
It’s only like 4-5 people that could possibly be shot on sight due to skin color. But you chose to send out an email to the entire command that further solidifies my belief that black lives are not as cared about. We understand everyone is probably hurting and just as confused as we are but their lives are not in danger. OURS ARE. We are overlooked, we are pushed to the side and we are constantly not even invited to the table. So we make our own (Tulsa/Rosewood) and even then that’s not enough.
We didn’t miss the mark because there was never a mark to miss. The mark was never there. There’s no mark on how to treat people that were enslaved for 400 years. There’s no mark on how to treat people that built their own economies their own towns and because of their skin color those towns were bombed and destroyed. There is no mark on how to treat people who watched their grandfathers and mothers walk for civil rights and be beaten, hosed and maimed for it. WALKING so that their grandchildren could be treated the same as other human beings because that’s all we are to us. We are human beings but obviously, to some people, we aren’t. Or maybe there’s a lesser platform of human being that we stand on. Either way.
There is NO MARK on how to deal with racism because you said it best. IT IS UNCOMFORTABLE. So until we make this a comfortable subject. We will get a short email and a sympathetic look from our peers. Not knowing that it could be my brother, my sister, my Mom, my Dad, my son, my daughter or even me being killed out there but it’s not something that you have to worry about so you give your sympathy and Lord forbid people go out and try to fight for change. It’s too much right? It stops our daily lives. It takes over the news. Why are they protesting?. Why are they doing all this? What’s the big deal? It’s too much right?
Looters will LOOT. Rioters will RIOT. However those Protesters will keep PROTESTING because there needs to be change! Racism is too much! Being afraid of the police is too much! Having to constantly fight to be seen as equal to my shipmates because I’m black is too much! Knowing secretly that my shipmates love me but not enough to fight for my right to sit at the same table as them is too much! Seeing retired Captains calling black people n-words then apologizing for it because it went public is too much! Seeing Chiefs make fun and light of this issue is too much!
They will fight for me as a shipmate but not as an African American. Because it’s not their fight. It is as you said uncomfortable and that is where my issue lies. You don’t have the right for it to be uncomfortable when you have black sailors looking up to you and depending on you.
If it’s uncomfortable, you should probably get comfortable real fast.
We need guidance just like everyone else. We need mentors like everyone else. We need leadership that understands our needs just like everyone else. So I can feel just as safe as you do when the police pull me over. There is no mark right now, so how about you make one? I think that starts here in this moment. Why is this subject uncomfortable for you and how can we make this easier for you to talk about. Where do we start? I can answer that for you. WE START HERE.
An African American Sailor Under Your Command