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Monday, December 09, 2019

Race and Ethnicity

Sen. Marco Rubio

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A new report released by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) criticizes military efforts to increase diversity, even though the U.S. military itself, along with experts and military leaders, say increased diversity improves military effectiveness.

Rubio and Roy provided early access to the report, titled "Woke Warfighters," to Fox News, which has publicly campaigned against anti-LGBTQ equality for years.

"We need to spend more time thinking about how to counter Chinese aircraft carriers and less time thinking about pronouns," Rubio wrote in the report. Roy wrote, "[President Joe] Biden's woke Pentagon is using taxpayer dollars to promote blatant anti-American ideology."

The report features photos of Black and transgender military leaders and members and claims that programs aimed at diversity have become so much of a priority in the armed forces that they are undermining fighting capability.

The Army has put emphasis on diversity in the military since before Joe Biden became president. In 2020, while Trump was in office, the Army launched "Project Inclusion," an initiative designed to increase diversity and equity across the branch.

In a document accompanying the program's announcement, the Army stated that it was important because "The strength of the Army comes from its diversity. Developing and maintaining qualified and demographically diverse leadership is critical for mission effectiveness and is essential to national security."

The Biden administration has committed to increased diversity across the military. The National Security Strategy released by the White House in October stated, "We will strengthen the effectiveness of the force by promoting diversity and inclusion." Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has overseen initiatives designed to address extremism within military ranks.

In March 2021, Biden removed restrictions on transgender military service that had been put in place by former President Donald Trump.

Dartmouth College professor Jason Lyall has studied the effects of diversity on military effectiveness and preparedness. He said in an analysis published by the Washington Post in July 2020, "My research shows that inclusive armies fight harder, suffer lower rates of desertion and defection, and exhibit more creative problem-solving on complex battlefields than armies drawn from marginalized or repressed groups."

Lyall wrote: "Victory on the battlefield over the past 200 years has usually gone to the most inclusive armies, not the largest or best-equipped ones. Inclusion, in other words, is good for military effectiveness."

In May, a group of former Defense Department leaders released a letter in support of increased diversity and inclusion in the armed forces. Among those who signed the letter were Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, who served as secretary of defense under former President Barack Obama, and Mark Esper, who served in the same position under Trump.

"Diversity is a strength of the U.S. military, and our experience as senior defense leaders tells us that capable and diverse teams are more effective in today's complex environment," the authors said.

Active members of the armed forces have also spoken out in favor of increased diversity.

Col. Andrew Deaton, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, wrote in a column for the nonprofit Association of the United States Army, "When leaders are able to leverage the holistic diversity of their soldiers, the unit and mission benefit."

Gen. Mark Milley, current chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a 2021 speech at an ROTC ceremony at Howard University: "Opportunity in our military must be reflective of the diverse talent in order for us to remain strong."

Rear Adm. Keith Davids of the Naval Special Warfare Command was quoted last month on the Navy's official website as saying, "Diversity is a force multiplier and makes us a stronger and more capable fighting force."

Voters have rejected attacks on diversity from Republican officials and candidates. Gubernatorial candidates such as Tudor Dixon in Michigan and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, who made anti-LGBTQ positions a key part of their campaigns, were overwhelmingly defeated. Anti-LGBTQ Senate candidates such as Mehmet Oz and Blake Masters also lost their races.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

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Stacey Abrams

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In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp was rewarded Tuesday night with a win by voters, who approved of his policies and appreciated his stand against former President Donald Trump, who tried and failed to get Kemp to toss out ballots that contributed to Trump’s narrow 2020 defeat in the state.

But it always bothered me that Kemp and the similarly Trump-resistant secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, earned kudos and votes for simply doing their jobs, and that both, flush in the praise for standing up to Trump, went on to support more restrictive voting rules that were not needed in the first place, rules that disadvantaged voters like Jennifer Jones.

The Guardianrecounted the arduous odyssey of Jones, a Ph.D. student at Morehouse School of Medicine in Georgia, who, like any good American citizen, showed up to cast her early vote in her Fulton County precinct for the midterm elections.

She hit a roadblock.

Despite dotting every “i” and crossing every “t,” she was told she could not cast a ballot for the candidates of her choice — Stacey Abrams for governor and incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock. Why? Someone she didn’t know and had never met had challenged her right to do the right thing.

The culprit was her state’s ironically named Election Integrity Act, supported by Kemp and Raffensperger, which allowed such a scenario and, in fact, invited it. Those who denied the results of the 2020 election of President Joe Biden, who were none too happy about the close election of two Democratic senators, Warnock and Jon Ossoff, enthusiastically used the law to cast doubt on the kinds of voters who made those results a reality.

Her mystery challenger might not have known her but probably knew a few things about her by following the clues and determining that Jones, a Black woman, was not quite “right” in some way.

It’s annoying, but not surprising, considering the history of Georgia and the country — white men of privilege taking two steps back for every step forward, when others doing the hard work don’t get much credit.

Remember, Georgia is the state where Black poll workers in that 2020 election were falsely accused of election mischief by Trump and friends, and hounded from their homes and patriotic duty. Mother and daughter Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss were still clearly shaken when they testified about their ordeal before the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021.

They were the true heroes of democracy in Georgia.

The results of Tuesday’s 2022 midterm elections are still uncertain. While the “red wave” predicted by Republicans, prognosticators and pollsters whose profession is becoming increasingly suspect did not emerge, control of the House and Senate is still up in the air.

One thing is certain, though. When results are this close, there will inevitably be rumblings about how Black voters could have done more to help Democrats, especially Black candidates who fell short. That was clear in preview stories that wondered if Democrats were doing enough, if Black voters expected too much, and whether or not Abrams was doing enough to appeal to Black men, in particular.

A Washington Post headline stated it pretty clearly: “Democrats count on huge Black turnout, but has the party delivered in return?” “Politicians need to mobilize Black male voters ahead of the midterms, experts say,” warned a story on NPR. Abrams spent an inordinate amount of time swatting down the narrative that Black men didn’t much like her.

I am already hearing whispers about the Senate race in North Carolina, which saw GOP Rep. Ted Budd defeat former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, an African American woman who campaigned across the state — one a Democratic Senate candidate had not won since 2008, and one once defined in the Senate by Jesse Helms and his opposition to civil rights.

I don’t think Black voters are the major problem for any of these candidates.

Missing has been much in-depth examination of white voters, and there are still more of them in this country than any other group, throwing support behind election deniers, reproductive rights hard-liners and those, like Budd, who refused to certify the free and fair election of President Biden.

How does that work? Give a pass to those who vote for those who like or look past the most un-American of actions, and place the blame on Black voters whenever Democrats or Black candidates fall short?

That’s asking African Americans to save democracy, a request we are used to, despite obstacles like the efforts of reelected Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, hailed as the new face of the Republican Party. His administration’s public arrests of formerly incarcerated Floridians, many of them Black, for breaking intentionally complicated election laws they had no idea they were violating, struck fear in prospective voters, even beyond his state’s borders, reported The Marshall Project, achieving the desired effect — voter hesitation and intimidation.

Certainly, those who choose not to vote earn my criticism. Any of today’s challenges, from voter ID laws to last-minute changes in the proper polling location, pale in comparison to the violence visited upon voting rights icons from Medgar Evers to John Lewis.

But I understand the exhaustion and occasional despair when, election cycle after election cycle, only some Americans are blamed for not doing the thing a lot of your fellow citizens don’t want you to do and construct barriers to stop you from doing.

In Abrams’ second loss to Kemp this week, it wasn’t Black voters who let her down.

In important ways, though, Stacey Abrams counted. When Jennifer Jones needed the information to correct misinformed poll workers, she knew who to call for help — Fair Fight, a national voting rights organization based in Georgia, founded by Abrams.

She is a winner, whether or not she gets credit.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.