“I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one ‘race’ – the human race – and that we are all members of it.” – Margaret Atwood
Ideally, racial/ethnic diversity in the United States military should match that of the civilian population. While the Department of Defense has made great strides in diversifying the military racially and ethnically, minorities still don’t see many leaders like themselves and their careers are often limited.
Racism is discrimination or harassment based on one’s race or ethnicity. Xenophobia generally means to fear and/or hate strangers, foreigners or anything that is different from your own culture and experiences. Minority service members experience both every day both. In some cases it’s direct verbal and/or physical abuse and in others its much more subtle.
Racial/ethnic minorities are largely underrepresented among senior noncommissioned officers and flag/general officers in most of the services, compared to the ranks below. This is true across all service branches. Among senior enlisted noncommissioned officers, racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the Air Force, Coast Guard and the Navy.
The United States and its military struggle with xenophobia, especially after the attacks of September 11th. Arab Americans – service members and civilians – have become the largest target, even though many were born in America and nearly 82% are citizens.
The US Census classifies Arabs as white. The US military also classifies Arabs as white, so it is nearly impossible to gain data about the Arab American experience within the ranks. Many Arab American service members use this as an opportunity to “pass,” a term typically used by people of mixed race/ethnicity that describes their desire to blend into the white majority to avoid racism based on their true ethnicity.