Top Air Force enlisted member speaks out on racial injustice: ‘I am George Floyd’
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright spoke out on Twitter on Monday regarding George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis last week shortly after a local police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
“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,” Wright, the highest-ranking enlisted member in the Air Force, wrote in a Twitter thread on Monday afternoon.
“What happens all too often in this country to Black men who are subjected to police brutality that ends in death…could happen to me. As shocking as that may sound to some of you,” he continued.
“This, my friends, is my greatest fear, 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 wrote.
Floyd, 46, died last Monday shortly after an officer, who is white, was captured on camera kneeling on his neck during an arrest in Minneapolis. During the arrest, Floyd could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”
His death has reignited an ongoing discussion around police brutality and race in the nation, as well as sometimes violent demonstrations and protests.
In his Twitter thread on Monday, Wright noted past instances in which black men and children have died by the hands of police, saying: “I am George Floyd…I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice.”
Who am I?
I am a Black man who happens to be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
I am George Floyd…I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice.
— Kaleth O. Wright (@cmsaf18) June 1, 2020
Wright, who, according to The Air Force Times, is only the second black man to serve in his post, also admitted that he currently struggles “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 ranks.”
Wright said Monday he has decided work with Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, to have “a full and thorough independent review of our military justice system.”
“We will look to uncover where the problem lies, and how we can fix it,” he said.
He said he is “also working to improve the diversity of our force, especially within the senior ranks.”
“I hope this message triggers responses and ideas from each of you on things we can do better,” he added.
Wright also encouraged his followers to vote and protest peacefully in the days ahead and urged them to contact “their local and state officials, to your Air Force leadership and become active in your communities.”
“If you don’t do anything else, I encourage everyone to fight, not just for freedom, justice and equality, but to fight for understanding,” he added. “You might think you know what it’s like to grow up, exist, survive & even thrive in this country as a Black person, but let me tell you, regardless of how many Black friends you have, how Black your neighborhood was, or if your spouse or in-laws are Black… You don’t know.”
–This report was updated on June 4 at 5:30 a.m.
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