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AP team probes the depth of racism in U.S. military ranks

Reserve Marine Maj. Tyrone Collier visits the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial near his home in Arlington, Va., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. When Collier was a newly minted second lieutenant and judge advocate, he recalls a salute to him from a Black enlisted Marine. But even after Collier acknowledged the gesture, the salute continued. Puzzled, Collier asked why the Marine held it for so long. “He said, ‘Sir, I just have to come clean with something. ... We never see Black officers. We never see people like you and it makes me extraordinarily proud,’” Collier recalls. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Military Paper

Members of AP’s Race and Ethnicity team, reporter Kat Stafford, Detroit; reporter Aaron Morrison, New York; and video journalist Noreen Nasir, Chicago, teamed up with investigative reporters James LaPorta, Washington, and Helen Wieffering, Minneapolis, to reveal how the roots of racism still run deep in all branches of the U.S. military, and how the Defense Department has done little to determine the scope of extremism in the ranks and take steps to address it.

Although military members are often reluctant to speak out, fearful of damage to their careers or other forms of retaliation, the team managed to land searing interviews with active and former troops in nearly every branch of the armed services. They told of being taunted by racial slurs, disrespected by colleagues and discouraged by superiors from openly embracing their cultures.

Among their other findings: The military’s judicial system has no explicit category for hate crimes,and the Defense Department still has no way to track the number of troops ousted for extremist views. The Defense Department had three weeks to respond to detailed questions,but failed to do so by the deadline. Once the piece was published and officials saw the depth and breadth of the AP’s reporting the DOD came forward with a 3,000-word statement that was incorporated in the live story.

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Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stephanie Davis holds a U.S. flag in the cargo area of a KC-135 airplane while flying over Pakistan/Afghanistan, in a Dec, 28, 2009 photo provided by Davis. For Davis, who grew up with little, the military was a path to the American dream, a realm where everyone would receive equal treatment. But many of her service colleagues, Davis says, saw her only as a Black woman. Or as an ABW – it was a joke, her colleagues insisted – an “angry Black woman,” a classic racist trope. – Courtesy Stephanie Davis via AP
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