HomeNewsArticle Display

Acknowledging racial disparity within our ranks

Racial disparity conversation.

Members from the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron discuss racial disparity, discrimination and inequality during their monthly open forum July 24, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. In order to ensure members continually feel valued, respected and safe, the 18th EMS has established monthly forums to continue the conversation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

Racial disparity conversation.

Members from the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron discuss racial disparity, discrimination and inequality during their monthly open forum July 24, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th EMS has held nine small group discussions in an open forum facilitated by Airmen who have personally experienced discrimination in their careers. This gives members the opportunity to speak about their personal experiences in a safe environment and affords others the opportunity to listen and learn from these experiences. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)


Since the death of George Floyd, discussing and addressing racial injustice throughout the ranks has become an important part of our total mission success.

U.S. Air Force senior leadership has prompted all servicemembers to take the time to learn and show humility by addressing racial blind spots and looking inward, at every echelon of command, so we emerge stronger as a profession of arms.

"I think it’s important for me, as a commander, to publically and promptly acknowledge to my squadron that there is a problem," said Maj. Jennifer Rogers, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander. "I use social media and a squadron-wide email to express my thoughts on what had been happening in the United States. Over two days, I attended 21 roll calls across all of my flights with my first sergeant and squadron superintendent to make my perspective very clear."

For Rogers, her perspective is crystal clear.

"I have personnel affected and/or who know people affected by recent events, and I wanted them to know it’s okay to feel what and how they feel," Rogers said. "I support an environment where individuals can speak to each other about difficult subjects in a respectful and dignified manner, where differing opinions and perspectives are valued and where my Airmen trust their leadership."

Rogers continued by explaining what’s not tolerated is racism or discrimination of any kind, and if anyone feels discriminated against, she wants them to feel that it’s okay to tell their leadership or the Equal Opportunity office, so appropriate action can occur to hold members accountable.

Additionally, the 18th EMS has held nine small group discussions in an open forum facilitated by Airmen who have personally experienced discrimination in their careers.

"We need to talk about racial disparity and discrimination more often and small groups are a great format for individuals who haven’t experienced or don’t understand discrimination/racism to gain perspective and understand why recent events are so important and need to be acknowledged," Rogers said.

During the small group discussions, Rogers explained that personal experiences and accounts were discussed and how she felt by hearing these stories.

"I was sad and concerned, especially for the younger Airmen, by what I heard in the discussions," She said. "I’m enough of an idealist to hope we have evolved enough and that the younger generation of Airmen would have it better. But no, discrimination and racism still exist. Maybe not on the grand scale of 60 years ago, but people are still sending insensitive texts and saying inappropriate things, oblivious to the effect they have on the individual they are disrespecting and isolating."

Recent events involving racial injustice and discrimination has caused leaders like Rogers to focus on ensuring inappropriate activity isn’t occurring and will never be tolerated.

"On one hand, it’s disappointing that we have to be motivated by recent events to focus on something so important," she said. "On the other hand, recent events have created momentum toward positive change and awareness. It’s important we utilize this time and these events as a catalyst to correcting systemic issues within the military, so everyone feels valued and respected."

In order to ensure members continually feel valued, respected and safe, the 18th EMS has established monthly forums to continue the conversation.

"The monthly open forum continues the conversation about racial disparity," explained Rogers. "I want to give my personnel a safe space to speak about their personal experiences, vent, learn differing perspectives, and seek mentorship without feeling judged. We’ve also set up an anonymous feedback page on our squadron SharePoint site. We’ve established a re-education opportunity for members focusing on the front line supervisors and we plan on keeping racial disparity and discrimination as topics for our next resiliency day event."

Rogers continued by expressing how necessary the work is at continuing to actively seek change.

"If these discussions and open forums were just a ‘check the box’ event, then my Airmen wouldn’t see how serious they are," Rogers said. "It’s important to me that my Airmen understand why we’re having these discussions. Discrimination and racism impact people’s lives, their self-worth, and/or their relationships. I need my squadron to function as a team, to have personnel who can rely on each other to make the mission happen, and to trust each other as well as their leadership."

After participating in so many possibly uncomfortable and serious conversations, Rogers explained how she is ensuring no members of her squadron are victims of racial inequality.

"It’s all about words and actions," she said. "I’ve stated my position on discrimination during work center roll calls and during the squadron’s monthly newcomer’s briefings. Zero tolerance. Any discrimination or harassment claim brought to my attention is investigated and addressed, whether through disciplinary measures or counseling."

"I truly believe the way to stop it within my own organization is through education and accountability," she continued. "People need to recognize their implicit biases, myself included, acknowledge them and change them. If they can’t, it’s my job to hold them accountable. The E.O. office has provided us with great resources on how to identify and address unconscious/implicit bias, and we’ve been utilizing those resources to do better for our Airmen."

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.