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Black Airman Allegedly Told That ‘The AirForce Is Looking For Somebody Of A White Complexion’ In Racist Text

Photo: Shutterstock / Mircea Moira / Facebook
AirForce plane, text messages

Racial disparities within the Air Force has been a longstanding conflict between airmen. Any hopes that things may have improved in recent years are dashed by a recent allegation made by a Black airman.

A screenshot of a text reportedly sent to a Black member of the Air Force is being investigated by leaders at Luke Air Force base in Arizona.

The Black airman was allegedly told the Air Force is looking for 'somebody of a white complexion.'

The texts posted on a United States Air Force Facebook page begin with a statement from a contact name that is covered up but partially reads "Sgt," which likely means sergeant.

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The person tells the man that he will not be putting his name forward for an undisclosed promotion.

When the Black airman inquired about the reasoning behind his rejection, the sergeant allegedly responded, “We personally do not feel as if you are a good choice for the squadron. You currently have a shaving waiver which isn’t a professional image, and I think the air force is looking for somebody of white complexion and with the image that the air force needs.”

Frustrated by the response, the airman states that it was the third time he was passed up for a job based on his appearance, finally writing that he knew “the commander would not agree with this.”

A source from Task and Purpose reports that while the Air Force restricts male personnel from growing beards, exceptions are granted to the airmen who cannot shave in line with regulations due to medical or religious reasons.

Air Force physicians may allow men to grow a well-kept beard if an airman suffers from painful razor bumps, a skin ailment that affects many Black males.

Yet, despite valid conditions or religious views, many black airmen with shaving waivers have also claimed they’ve faced discrimination over their appearances.

Luke Air Force base is investigating the matter.

The chief of media relations and Air Force spokesperson, Sean Clements, shared that base leadership is looking into the matter.

“The 56th Fighter Wing is currently investigating the allegations of misconduct purportedly in a text message interaction between two Luke AFB Airmen published online yesterday,” he said.

“Without going into specifics of the investigation, we can categorically say that Luke Airmen are held to a high standard of conduct and that we maintain a zero-tolerance policy regarding acts of discrimination based on race.”

According to a study led by Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Simon Ritchie in July 2021, the research identified that despite Black men making up less than 13% of the 798 survey sample of airmen, they “made up nearly 65% of those who had shaving waivers.”

Ritchie’s team concluded that beards are harmful to Black men’s career prospects in the Air Force, which favored men with a more clean appearance.

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“[T]he promotion system is not necessarily inherently racially biased, but instead biased against the presence of facial hair which will likely always affect the promotions of Blacks/African-Americans disproportionately because of the relatively higher need for shaving waivers in this population,” wrote the authors of the study. 

Racial discrimination in the Air Force is not new.

After an internal 2020 investigation indicated that black service members were being disproportionately punished and promoted more slowly than their white peers, the Air Force has been making significant adjustments to combat bias inside the military branch.

Following months of evaluation, the Air Force established offices for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Strategy to encourage diversity and root out discriminatory behavior within the organization.

It’s not perfect, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

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Ashley Darkwa-Anto is a writer who covers News & Entertainment.

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