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Diversity & Inclusion panel brings 'truth to perspective'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Solomon Cook
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

A Diversity and Inclusion Panel held a virtual meeting entitled, “Bringing Truth to Perspective,” which focused on the personal stories of the members and allowed for live comments and participation from the audience.

“Today I have the honor to be the moderator for today’s panel discussion ...Our panelists, including myself, have made ourselves available and vulnerable enough to share our stories with you today. I will tell you that those opinions and experiences that you will hear are in no shape, form or fashion a reflection of the DoD, U.S. Air Force or the 375th [Air Mobility Wing]. However, the 375th AMW has taken a deliberate effort to make sure we take these tough discussions to the forefront and do us justice by driving and supporting the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.” said Senior Master Sgt. Shamon Seals, Air Mobility Command enlisted professional military education and career assistance advisor functional manager.

 During the panel, members told their stories of discrimination or exclusion while attendees watched.

“I grew up in a military family, said Chief Master Sgt. Leslie Jackson, 375th Force Support Squadron superintendent. “Throughout my childhood, I went to DoD schools. In those schools I never noticed color – you were either my friend or you weren’t my friend. It was just as simple as that.”

Jackson later moved into a predominantly black neighborhood and it was at this time he learned a stark difference of how people treated others.

“We got harassed by the cops all the time. I always fit the profile you know, black male between 4’6” and 6’11” slim, medium, or large build -- I always fit that profile,” he continued. “It became like a game to me. I avoided the cops, because it became like a game.”

Going with the line of thought of how an adolescent processes the world around them, he rationalized how he was treated from that perspective.

“I thought that they were very -- very -- very passionate about their job. That’s how I took it,” he elaborated. “It wasn't until one day, I was walking back from the basketball court. There was a fight there and the cops were breaking it up. As I walked up, a cop looked at me and said ‘You need to go home Urkel. Nack’ in [those] days, I was skinny so he just called me Urkel.”

 After his sister let out a chuckle, things became physical.

“[The cop] threw her on the car I said, ‘Oh you think it's funny.’ She starts screaming ‘You're hurting me You're hurting me.’ I intervene. That's my sister I'm going to intervene. Next to you know, me and my sister are in the back of the cop car. I have a black eye and a chipped tooth just because I intervene. They charge me for a inciting a riot. Y'all, I weighed 135 lbs. How can I incite anything? [Later], I'm in a police station and my dad shows up in uniform. Once they noticed him they’re saying ‘yes sir, no sir.’ Their whole attitude changed.  As we were leaving I looked at my dad's face, I noticed a look of concern. He knew that he could not protect us from this -- there's no way he can protect us. [After that day] every time I seen a cop, I ran. I wasn't taking no more losses (sic).”

As Jackson told his story, words of encouragement chimed in from social media.

“Thank you for sharing that very poignant experience Chief Jackson,” said an attendee watching live.

This type of event was not the first of its kind, and if there is a benefit for the Airmen of Team Scott, leadership has said they will continue to support and pursue these methods of communication.

“This is the third discussion we are having in our D&I panel series,” said Col. Angela Ochoa, 375th Air Mobility Wing vice commander. “As long as we are getting feedback that these are helpful at the unit level for framing the conversation in the work place – we are going to keep them coming. We are very proud of our D&I working group here at Team Scott under the leadership of Ms. Pam Dorsey.”

At the conclusion of the event, Ochoa again touted the good work that the panel was doing. Additionally, she advised that having those sometimes difficult conversations about race, gender and inclusion is not reserved for just panels or working groups.

 “This is about having these difficult conversations,” Ochoa said. “Yes, we are doing good, but we still have more work to do. For those of you that might be listening that might be thinking that you are in a flight or a unit or at a location outside of Scott that doesn’t have that culture, I challenge you – be that champion in your unit and start those conversations.

“There is a lot of work that goes into putting these panels on. I really want to say thank you to the panel members for being courageous and sharing your story with us today,” Ochoa concluded.