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Facing unconscious bias head on, key to healing

Maj. Audric Bills is the 445th Airlift Wing Equal Opportunity Office director.

Maj. Audric Bills is the 445th Airlift Wing Equal Opportunity Office director.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

On May 25, 2020, the death of George Floyd brought a long standing issue to the forefront of society that, in many ways, has been ignored.

This appears to be true because it does not affect everyone directly.  Some may not even understand the full magnitude of it, but racism exists.

The Air Force’s stance on unlawful discrimination, specifically racism is “zero tolerance.” But this is only relevant if the situation is substantiated.  From the Equal Opportunity perspective, racism is difficult to prove because people, generally speaking, shy away from the conversation. 

Now, in the midst of civil unrest, these conversations need to be had. Here’s why… 12 percent of the entire wing is Black/African American and another 5 percent identifies with other ethnic backgrounds.

When a racist event occurs, be it an undertone or an overt action, it’s traumatic in nature. On top of that you feel alone.  I speak from experience.

Discrimination in a culture will initiate division in any organization if left unchecked. For those of you in uniform who are uncomfortable with the subject matter, my advice is learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  It is imperative.  Encouraging these conversations and talking about the trauma are the initial steps toward healing.

Building relationships and earning trust among team members help identify our unconscious bias behaviors, and develops understanding for your fellow Airman.

“Trust is earned in the smallest of moments.  It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.” ~ Brené Brown

Racial discrimination or inequality in any organization, simply put, is an injustice. Change and unity will not happen unless everyone participates.  Everyone has the responsibility to address discrimination (racism) at the lowest level—this is the most effective approach.

Commanders, directors, first sergeants, supervisors and subordinates must ensure all appropriate resources are utilized to stamp out negative behaviors that promote bigotry and hate. 

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

Again, leaders you are encouraged to have sit down conversations or sensory sessions with your Airman and address the feelings concerning our current environment.

The 445th EO office will assist in facilitating conversations should you need us. We can be reached at 937-257-0237.