"It is my goal to make the London Center, the premier foreign policy institute in the country, one that is shaping
the debate on international affairs and influencing decisions emerging from the Congress."
Many moons ago, I recall being overseas - I think I was in the desert - and my mom and dad called me and told me about one of my nephews, I think he was probably 10 or 11 years old at the time. Mom and dad were so pleased I thought they might burst: my nephew had brought home a friend who he always talked about, one of his best friends, and it turned out he wasn’t white. They didn’t care whether the kid was white or black or blue, but they did care that their grandson saw his friend as his friend, no hyphenated adjectives attached.
A guy has just been promoted to 4-star after being nominated by the President to be a combatant commander (he was approved by the Senate last week and promoted on the 6th). But what we have here is crowing about the fact that he is the first black 4 star general in the Marines. Which is horribly sad - as I am quite certain that he doesn’t want to be remembered as having been picked for the job because of the color of his skin. It is particularly horrible in as much as it is the Marines.
Say what you will about Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, there isn’t a more meritocratic organization within the US government. Which is not to say that there is no discrimination in the Marines, there is. To the Marines, there are Marines, and then there is everyone else. And to the Marines, other Marines are Green. Every Marine is green (the color of their T-shirts, the color of their camis). No black Marines or White Marines or any other color Marines. Just Marines. As for everyone else, the Marines don’t care if you are white, black, brown, blue, or gray, rich or poor, tall or short. What matters is that you are not Green, and thus you are, and always will be, decidedly less.
As it was explained to me - by a Marine - many years ago, you can join the Army or the Navy, but you have to try out for the Marines. And the Marines make it difficult to become Green.
Which is why this particular fawning over LTGEN Langley, now GEN Langley, our newest Combatant Commander, is just wrong. Langley has been promoted up through the ranks because he is a good Marine, an excellent Marine, a very GREEN Marine. Not because of the color of his skin.
But now he will be tainted, at last in the eyes of the public which doesn’t understand the Marines, and they will wonder if he was chosen because someone in the Administration wanted to have a 4-star black Marine, rather than picking a LTGEN to be a General and a Combatant Commander.
By making the point, again and again and again, the he is a “Black General” any thought that he was an excellent regimental commander and later an excellent Component Commander at Central Command, is overshadowed by the clear implication that what mattered is that he is black. Maybe you do know whether he was a good regimental commander or not. All well and good. But leave his skin color, or his place of birth or whatever out of the equation.
This horrible fascination with “hyphenated Americanism” has to end. Consider the evil done by the folks at NASA crowing about how they are going to send the first black to the Moon; their actions will forever leave someone with the stigma that he was chosen for the Moon Mission not because of his skills as a pilot or his erudition as geologist or astronomer or physicist, but because of his skin color.
Many years ago a preacher down in Atlanta prayed that he had a dream that someday his children would be judged not for the color of their skin but for the content of their character.
Let’s work on that idea. No hyphens, no exceptions. All of us just Americans. Well, okay, maybe one, maybe if you’re a Marine, in which case you can be known for being green.
About Pete O'Brien
Peter O’Brien has more than 30 years of successful leadership and planning experience in a wide range of organizations afloat and ashore on three continents. Mr. O’Brien’s Navy career included ten years at sea, more than a dozen years stationed overseas and multiple ...