ATWG: Why I'm Ashamed of Sen. McCain

The history of oppressing Black and LGBT service people has striking parallels. In the latest installment of Ask the White Guy, DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti explains why the president needs to sign an executive order to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" right now.

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


Question:

Marine Corps Commandant James T. Conway has asked a question the Big Media refuses to ask, namely: Will open homosexuality within the ranks enhance combat readiness? "My personal opinion is that unless we can strip away the emotion, the agendas, and the politics and ask [whether] … we somehow enhance the war fighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps by allowing homosexuals to openly serve, [then] we haven't addressed [this issue] from the correct perspective. And, at this point, I think that the current policy works. My best military advice to this committee, to the secretary, and to the president would be to keep the law such as it is." General Conway's moderate and commonsense message was echoed, albeit in more muted form, by Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey Jr. and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz. GENERAL CASEY: I do have serious concerns about the impact of repeal of the law on a force that's fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight-and-a-half years. We just don't know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness. GENERAL SCHWARTZ: [My] strong conviction [is that] this is not the time to perturb the force, [which] is, at the moment, stretched by demands in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere without careful deliberation.

Answer:

Our country has gone through this before; when President Truman wanted to end military racial segregation in 1948, the same argument about "decreased combat readiness" was used against Black people. President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 and two commissions formed: one by Charles Fahy, which recommended the end of segregation and quotas, and the other, formed by the Army, was headed by Lt. General Chamberlin. The Chamberlin Board recommended retention of segregation and quotas.

The Korean War then made integration a necessity—there weren't enough white soldiers to fill combat slots. As is the case today, when bullets start flying, pragmatism takes over. Integration of some combat units happened and the Chamberlin Board was asked to reconvene a year later. Although it had to concede that integrated units performed just as well as all-white units, it still recommended segregation and quotas. It's eerily similar to today's experience; because of  staffing and specialty shortages, since our current two wars started, there has been a dramatic fall in service people separated under DADT (the "don't ask, don't tell" policy), a fact that bluntly contradicts any prediction of "decreased combat readiness." The military has already shown us that out and gay can work just fine.

It's sad to note that the history of oppressing Black service people and LGBT service people has striking parallels—the military in 1951 and 2010  conducted surveys to assess attitudes, hired consulting groups to produce studies (the Research Analysis Corporation in 1951, RAND in 2010—ironically, neither group had discernible excellence in accomplishment in what they were studying). The results of all of these surveys, meetings and reports were remarkably similar. Bigotry was trumped by performance. Familiarity demolished objectification. Integration, handled well, INCREASED combat effectiveness.

Go figure. Treat people like human beings, respect their rights, and they'll fight better for you. Do you really need RAND to tell you this?

I appreciate the general officer's opinions that you quoted, and you can counter the opinions you quoted with the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who while testifying to Congress said, "I have served with homosexuals since 1968" (when he joined the service). He also said, "No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

We don't have to line up and contrast senior officers' opinions, however. It is important to note that we have a very special system in our country: the military is run by the civilian government. The president appoints service secretaries to run the military and the admirals and generals all report to civilians. Our country has a long history of tragedy when we parse rights. The time for action is now—and the president needs to sign another executive order.

In closing, I'll say that as a fellow naval aviator, I've gone from admiring Sen. John McCain to being ashamed of him. He is the Lt. General Chamberlin of our day—a bulwark for bigotry.

 

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Executives from Nielsen, New York Life, TIAA and Toyota Motor North America talk about communicating their commitment to D&I management and backing it up with actions that get results.

At the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 event, more than 400 people were in attendance during the day to hear best practices on effectively managing diversity and inclusion.

Moderator: Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

Panelists:

  • Angela Talton, Chief Diversity Officer, Nielsen
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  • Steve Larson, Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion, TIAA
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