Three months before the murder of George Floyd incited coast-to-coast race riots by mostly white rioters, President Donald Trump nominated a Black man who could tell the world about a life-defying racial bias.
That man, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, on Thursday becomes the presidentially appointed Air Force chief of staff after the Senate confirmed him 98-0 on June 9. It makes him the first Black leader of a military branch and the most senior Black Pentagon official since Gen. Colin Powell chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.
Brown was not chosen because of his skin color. He was the clear choice because of an impeccable military record that began when he attended the Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in 1985. As an F-16 fighter pilot, he accumulated nearly 3,000 flight hours with 130 in combat.
Among 19 major awards and decorations are a Joint Service Commendation Medal, a NATO Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He wrote the book “Developing Doctrine for the Future Joint Force: Creating Synergy and Minimizing Seams.”
Although Trump could not have known of the racial tensions that would erupt months later, Brown’s appointment gives authority and voice to someone who could help our country contend with the scourge of racial division. He became an Air Force general and the leader of the Air Force while bucking racially hostile headwinds. Consider his comments during a recent TV interview.
• “I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion, not just for George Floyd but for the many African Americans who have suffered the same fate as George Floyd.”
• “I’m thinking about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers and then being questioned by another military member, ‘Are you a pilot?’”
• “I’m thinking about the pressure I felt to perform error-free, especially for supervisors I perceive half expected less from me as an African American.”
• “I think about having to represent by working twice as hard to prove their expectations and perceptions of African Americans were invalid.”
• “I’m thinking about how my nomination provides some hope but also comes with a heavy burden. I can’t fix centuries of racism in our country nor can I fix decades of discrimination that may have impacted members of our Air Force.”
• “I’m thinking about how I can make improvements, personally, professionally, and institutionally so that all airmen, both today and tomorrow, appreciate the value of diversity and can serve in an environment in which they can meet their full potential.”
Despite all of that — despite the enslavement of his ancestors — Brown loves his country as a man sworn to defend it from enemies foreign and domestic. As a rational adult, he topples racist obstacles with the zeal activist vandals ruin property. He has devoted his adult life to the pursuit of forging a more perfect union, not one mired in the past.
Brown fought for everything he has. He symbolizes what individuals can do when they refuse to accept the soft bigotry of low expectations and the evil agendas of racists. He is the perfect person to lead our Air Force during these times of global and domestic turmoil.
Brown’s first day on the job is also the day his predecessor, the highly decorated Gen. David Lee Goldfein, retires from an Air Force career that began 37 years ago. Brown inherits an Air Force that grew and modernized under Goldfein’s exemplary leadership.
With the rapidly growing sophistication of enemy forces, the role of the Air Force has never been more crucial to the cause of U.S. sovereignty and world peace. Thanks to the appointment and confirmation of Gen. Brown, we are in highly competent hands.