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The United Department of the Air Force emblem is seen on a monument in Streator, Illinois, on October 15, 2022. | Source: NurPhoto / Getty

Listen: I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it a million more times over: The Republican war on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), critical race theory and “wokeness” isn’t about truth, equality or being a good American. It’s about white people’s feelings.

Facts and data have been thrown to the wayside in the GOPropaganda battle to scrub DEI from the face of the Earth because it isn’t about reality, it’s all about the racial resentment that erupts in the hearts of white conservatives whenever it’s suggested that America’s deep and thoroughly documented history of pro-white, anti-Black racism has resulted in a country that is still systemically racist. And that white fragility has been the catalyst for the striking down of affirmative action, the legally sanctioned whitewashing of Black history, the blind rejection of CRT, the politicized condemnation of Black Lives Matter, and much more.

Now, that same white and fragile energy is standing in the way of a promotion for a highly decorated, highly qualified and highly praised officer with the U.S. Air Force, all because the veteran once penned an opinion piece calling out systemic racism and white fragility in the military and beyond.

In July 2020, Col. Benjamin Jonsson, who is white, wrote an article for the Air Force Times titled, “Dear white colonel … we must address our blind spots around race.”

“As white colonels, you and I are the biggest barriers to change if we do not personally address racial injustice in our Air Force,” Jonsson wrote. “Defensiveness is a predictable response by white people to any discussion of racial injustice. White colonels are no exception. We are largely blind to institutional racism, and we take offense to any suggestion that our system advantaged us at the expense of others. That I addressed this letter to white colonels made many of you uneasy, and we have seen similar white defensiveness play out in many of our conversations since the murder of George Floyd.”

Recently, Republican Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt responded to what Jonsson wrote about the white conservatives’ “predictable response” of “defensiveness” by, well, predictably being defensive as a delusional white man who wants all talk about systemic racism to be eradicated with the utmost prejudice.

“It is long past time to root out divisive DEI policies and their advocates from our apolitical military,” Schmitt said in a statement justifying his decision to block Jonsson’s promotion to brigadier (one star) general, according to the Washington Post. “Leaders must emphasize unity of mission and purpose, not our immutable differences if we are to maintain our military as the greatest meritocracy in the world.”

Schmitt is actually telling on himself here because Jonsson’s op-ed actually made no mention of diversity, equity and inclusion policies in or outside of the military. It was largely focused around the disparity in which Black officers are disciplined in comparison to their white counterparts and the degree to which Black veterans are ignored or dismissed when they complain about the racism they experience. However, even if Jonsson’s article was about DEI, that narrative would have been backed by the official Air Force standards.

“Diversity of thought, experience, and perspectives is critical to innovation and maintaining the Air Force’s competitive advantage,” the document states. “Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are about strengthening our force and ensuring our long-term viability to support Air Force missions with dignity and respect.”

Beyond that, there is no question about whether or not Jonsson is qualified to receive the promotion. According to the Post, he was recommended for the promotion after working as chief of staff for the Illinois-based Air Mobility Command, which oversees 110,000 employees. The Post also noted that Jonsson “is fluent in Arabic, has seven Air Medals, and flew 900 combat hours over Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.”

So, how did it come that Schmitt, who, by the way, has zero military experience, became the sole voice blocking Jonsson’s well-earned blessings? Well, to start, he actually isn’t the only fragile Caucasian pea in that particular white nationalist pod.

From the Post:

He was highlighted in an article in the Daily Signal, published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. Jonsson’s piece was three years old when the Signal’s story ran last August during a widely criticized, almost nine-month hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) on 455 senior military promotions, including Jonsson’s.

The Signal, which researched those awaiting promotion, quoted William Thibeau, the Claremont Institute’s American Military Project director, saying, “Col. Jonsson exhibited a toxic embrace of DEI policies that have no place in the U.S. military. His public characterization of ‘white colonels’ blindness is inherently divisive and sends shock waves through his command.”

In December, Tuberville lifted his hold, but Schmitt immediately used an individual senator’s right to block nominations to continue holding up Jonsson’s promotion. He was originally nominated by President Biden in January 2023.

Again, why do Jonsson’s detractors keep mentioning DEI when Jonsson himself did not? And why do they keep claiming DEI has “no place” in the Air Force when the Air Force’s official policy explicitly says otherwise?

Could it be that it’s not about DEI per se, but actually it’s about white people’s blind rejection of any and all discussions about systemic racism in America? All Schmitt and his ilk are doing are proving Jonsson’s point in real time. These discussions are only “divisive” because they make white people uncomfortable. The division that comes as a result of conservatives condemning these discussions on the data-reinforced reality of racial disparities in America somehow doesn’t count as “divisiveness” in their minds.

White conservatives want America to revolve around white conservative feelings. That’s the truth of it, and now, it’s even affecting the careers of decorated military personnel.

But, you know, support the troops and all that, amirite?


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