© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Pentagon Building is seen in Arlington, Virginia, USA.
By Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly a third of black U.S. military service members reported experiencing racial discrimination, harassment, or both over a 12-month period, according to the results of a retained Department of Defense survey long underscoring concerns about racism in the ranks. The 2017 survey, the results of which have not been previously reported, also showed that US troops who experienced racial discrimination or harassment had high levels of dissatisfaction with the reporting process and largely did not report it. The data supports the findings of a 2020 Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-military-civilrights, which found that service members feared that reporting discrimination would likely be counterproductive and it was not worth the risk. “Overall, the results reveal that a lot of work is needed to improve the reporting process for those who experience racial / ethnic discrimination and harassment,” acknowledged the Department of Defense in a report that accompanied the survey data. The Pentagon’s release of the data followed a Reuters article last month https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-military-civilrights-exclusive/exclusive-for-years-the-pentagon- sits-on-racial- discrimination-survey-data-idUSKBN28S0YF revealing how the Department of Defense sat on the 2017 survey data during President Donald Trump‘s administration, even last month denying a Freedom of Information Act request from Reuters. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a senior member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, condemned the Pentagon’s failure to release the data earlier. An aide to Gillibrand noted that the senator’s office had been looking for the data for months. “This just released 2017 report shows that President Trump’s Defense Department has deliberately withheld statistics exposing a racial justice crisis in the military,” Gillibrand told Reuters. “While the Defense Department leadership spoke lip service about equality, they withheld a report that reveals that minority service members face rampant discrimination and harassment, and those who report it are almost as likely to face punishment. than the perpetrators. ” Concerns about racial discrimination in the military, America’s largest employer, have taken on new urgency over the past year as the United States undergoes a national recognition of racism. Although the military is diverse at the lower ranks, it is largely white and male at the top. Unpunished racial discrimination and harassment play a role in expelling minorities, advocates say. President-elect Joe Biden underscored the importance of diversity at the Pentagon when he announced his choice to lead it last month: retired Army General Lloyd Austin, who would be America’s first black defense secretary, if Congress approves. “More than 40% of our active duty forces are people of color. It’s about time the department’s leadership reflected that diversity,” said Biden. RACIST JOKES AND INSULTS The 2017 Active Duty Workplace and Equal Opportunity Survey showed that 31.2% of black servicemen reported experiencing racial discrimination, harassment, or both, compared to 23 , 3% and 21% of the Asian and Hispanic troops surveyed, respectively, figures that were still drugged. The survey is unlikely to capture all of the discrimination faced by minority US troops, advocates say. Daniele Anderson, a Navy veteran who is chief strategist for the Black Veterans Project advocacy group, noted that the survey only asked about discrimination during the previous 12-month period. “I would hazard a guess that there are many more who have experienced” discrimination in their careers, Anderson said. Minorities in the US military reported everything from dealing with racist jokes and slurs to hearing claims about racial superiority. About 17.9% of black servicemen surveyed reported hearing someone use a racial stereotype about blacks. “Taken together, these results suggest that negative racial / ethnic experiences among active duty service members are primarily comprised of racial / ethnic harassment, occur more than once, are committed by someone of a different race / ethnicity, and are often they are not corrected, “the report said. Of the US troops who chose not to report an incident of racial profiling or harassment, 39% thought nothing would be done and an even higher percentage thought it would make their work situation unpleasant. Of those who reported an incident, the vast majority did not know the outcome of their complaints, the survey found. The Defense Department has not explained why the data took so long to release. The survey, which is conducted every four years, is already so old that the Pentagon must conduct a new one for fiscal year 2021, which ends on September 30. Anderson, pointing to incidents related to race in the past four years, suspected that the 2021 data would show a deteriorating situation for members of minorities. “If we could somehow get data today for the last 12 months, or the last four years, that number would probably be significantly worse,” he said.