Sunday, April 4, 2021

Black F-22 Pilot And Racial Discrimination

I think that many Black men in America could tell some tales about discrimination that falls short of explicit racial hostility in the form of "I hate n*****s and think we should kill them all!" . That thing is not uncommon but discrimination that appears in the form of discomfort, different standards and expectations, and simple failure to connect on a human level is more frequent. This lowkey animus is dangerous to both health and career goals.
Obviously high performance is important to everyone. But your soft skills are almost as important as performance. If, because of your race, people don't like you and never really trust you, it's more difficult to rise in your chosen field. The story that Air Force Major Daniel Walker told resonated with me. I have heard the same sort of stories in different contexts for decades. 
Walker is leaving the Air Force. We each must choose our own path. I bet that Walker will find the same sorts of challenges in his next career. Being Black, your whole life is an "uphill battle against racism." There's no escaping that.
Walker, a Dallas, Texas native, comes from a legacy of stealth fighter pilots. He grew up hearing stories about his great-uncle Norman Scales, a Tuskegee airman who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service to the country during World War II. Walker followed in his great-uncle’s footsteps, and attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado before continuing on with pilot training. But once in the ranks, Walker quickly learned how he was perceived by his white counterparts. “You’re big, you’re Black, with a deep voice. You’re intimidating,” he told Martin.
“This story is not uncommon,” Walker said. “I could very easily attribute this interaction to that action on my part, but when you compare stories from people you’ve never meant, and they’re almost identical, down to the individual, down to the comment, you realize these are not singular events in the person’s life.”

Not long after joining an F-22 squadron in Langley, Virginia, Walker was told he was too quiet, which he said led his associates to believe he thought he was “too good” to be there. Back in flight school Walker had been told he was too loud.
After 11 years of what he describes as an “uphill battle” of racism in the ranks, Walker departed, leaving the Air Force with less than 50 Black fighter pilots at the time.
“I had to really start taking serious my happiness, my well-being,” Walker said. “I asked myself, am I willing to continue fighting uphill and chance going back to a squadron where I have to manage myself this way and sacrifice these things personally, will I get anywhere?”
Walker has been accepted to Harvard Law School and plans to serve his country “in a different plane.”
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