Posts Tagged With: Commandant of the Coast Guard

The Case of CDR Benjamin Strickland, A Book Review and an Author’s Response

 http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-CDR-Benjamin-Strickland/dp/1514682737

LT Fredd Milbry, USCG (Ret.) Wrote:

I reviewed the recently published book “The Case of CDR Benjamin Strickland (Unrestricted Coast Guard Chronicles (UCGC) Book 1)” written by our own retired Honorable Judge London Steverson.

First and foremost buy this book! Why you say, because if you’ve done anything righteous in life, there should be no problem explaining to whoever inquires, what was your rationale behind your actions and most importantly you should be recognized for doing what’s Right. The very essence of that statement is the basis of this book in my opinion.

As a retired CG Officer and former Enlisted man with over 20 years service experience in personnel matters, assignments, counseling, investigating various complaints/offenses of the UCMJ, etc. at different levels and assignments, I feel very confident to critique these matters. It was drilled into our heads that the leadership from the top sets the tone and in this case it seems the leadership was either grossly lacking; some subordinate(s) chose to dictate the scenario without being challenged or the Leadership was duped into believing and subsequently supporting another story. Race was not an issue.

All officers concerned were Caucasian and of the same race and sex. So Racial bias was not a factor in this situation. Which still leaves a bad taste in my mouth because simply put, right is right and wrong is wrong. And there were some wrongs done without ramifications to the doers, although the one right thing was met as though it was the wrong. A once rising career was dispensed as though the time spent cultivating it was not valued in the least.

A riveting story that will have you questioning how, when, who and ultimately why certain things took place with Commander Strickland’s career. The Author (the retired Honorable Judge London Steverson) will guide you through the maze of incidents so that you will be able to formulate some opinions and conclusions based on the facts at hand. Several things concern me with the entire narrative, one of which, is that as a retired Coast Guard officer I have to question since this type of treatment could be so easily done to any member in today’s Coast Guard with a career resume’ that is nothing short of spectacular. If in fact it could happen to CDR Strickland, it could happen to a member with far less superlative credentials/accolades, or time in service or rank, but who is still very important and dedicated to the organization.

You will have a good idea and a look into the organizational framework with regards to following and executing orders by senior leadership and the possible ramifications of doing the right thing but nonetheless, something altogether different happening with the outcome of those actions taken. You will have enough information to decide whether an injustice did take place considering the old axiom, there are two sides to every story. Well the jury is still out with the possibility of never shedding true light on the opposite story. That could counter the story written in this book. But one thing is definite, a brilliant career was stopped dead in its tracks and a military family was rewarded with a questionable exit from a organization they had sacrificed and dedicated their lives for. This is not representative of the organization I served. It is up to you, the reader to draw your own conclusions of the events based on the information in this very well written story.

The Author responds:

To: LT Fredd Milbry, USCG (Ret.) 

You are truly a member in good standing of the “Long Blue Line” of retired Coast Guard Officers. It is obvious how much you love the Coast Guard.

And you are a moral person who still holds sacred the “core values” we were taught as officers; duty, honor, honesty, truth, loyalty, respect, obedience to your oath of office and support for higher authority; follow the chain of command.

All of this is apparent in your review of The Case of CDR Benjamin Strickland.

 http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-CDR-Benjamin-Strickland/dp/1514682737

You are a leader; you started the Facebook Page Black Coast Guard Chronicles. You see things first and are frequently on the cutting edge of hot social and professional issues. This is all the more reason I am touched by your insights into The Strickland Case and the book outlining it.

You are middle America; you are the Coast Guard’s moral majority; you are the voice of our conscience.

When you speak people listen. And I hear you. It was for such an awareness as yours that the book was written. It was to highlight such gross arbitrary and capricious divergence from good order and proper procedure that the book was written.

When the most senior officers in the CG can completely disregard morality and sacrifice a decorated officer and his innocent family for no rational reason, it makes me shudder for the security of my fellow officers in the lower ranks and I fear for the future of our Coast Guard.

Is this behavior typical of the entire senior officer corps? I hope not.

Can this type of thing happen again? I pray not.

How did it happen this once? I fear there is no single answer.

What is clear is that a great wrong has been done! One of the best and the brightest of the fair haired boys has been sacrificed on an altar of arrogance, deceit, malice.

And why? All for doing his job; and doing it by the book; all for reporting a case of sexual assault in an Area (the Pacific Area) where no one wanted to rock the boat at a time when the next Commandant was being chosen.

And any whiff of a scandal, and any wide scale investigation might jeopardize the desired decision making. And so this case had to go away; and, anyone pushing it had to be silenced, even if it meant sacrificing his entire family.

This is a story that had to be told. Your review of the facts in the book makes that abundantly clear. Thank you my fellow retired Coast Guard Officer.




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Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown Has A Thousand Fathers

It is said that success has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.

 

Manson Brown has a thousand fathers. He is a living success story in every sense of the word.

His natural father, the late Manson Brown Junior, was proud of him.

 

His Coast Guard father, London Steverson, recruited him out of St. John’s Prep School in Washington, D.C. and wanted him to become Commandant of the U. S. Coast Guard.

His professional fathers, U.S. Transportation Secretaries Rodney E. Slater and Norman Y. Mineta are challenged him with cutting-edged assignments.

 

In 2003, he was Chief of Officer Personnel Management at the Coast Guard Personnel Command when Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta called, explaining that Ambassador to Iraq PaulBremer needed “a transportation guy” in Baghdad. Bremer was the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. In actuality that made Ambassador Bremer the President of Iraq and Admiral Brown became his Secretary of Transportation.

In Baghdad, Brown was the Senior Advisor for Transportation to the Coalition Provisional Authority, overseeing restoration of transportation systems throughout Iraq.  The air lines were not flying; the trains were not running, and all ports were closed to shipping. In a matter of three months Admiral Brown and his team were able to get Iraqi Airways flying again, and to open all ports for shipping. Moreover, the trains were not only running, but they were running on time.

 

His spiritual father, Admiral Robert Papp is proud of him. Papp means priest in Hungarian; so, his last boss and father confessor came from a family of priests. At Vice Admiral Brown’s retirement ceremony, his Spiritual Father preached to the choir. He told a parable; it was a Parable of Hope. He was describing how any child from any inner city ghetto or poverty hole in America can come into the Coast Guard and rise to the highest level or authority and responsibility that his talent, diligence and initiative will take him.

Manson Brown’s life is a parable; it is a story of hope for Black children every where in America that anyone can make it in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. America is truly the Land of Opportunity and Hope for anyone who will apply their innate God-given talents to study, to learn, and to excel.

Admiral Papp, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, described Brown as a friend and mentor. Earlier in their careers, the two officers commuted together to their office in Washington. During one conversation on the way to work, they talked about officer promotions and assignments. Papp said he was surprised when Brown pointed out that bias kept some Black officers from advancement.

All of us human beings, whether we admit it or not, have our own biases,” Papp said. “He opened my eyes to those biases and made me look harder to make sure that we are a balanced and diverse service.”

Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the Coast Guard Commandant, said that Brown had stood on the shoulders of Black officers before him and that those who follow owe Brown a debt for his service. Brown played a crucial role in developing the careers of minorities in the Coast Guard, Papp added.

“While we still have a long way to go, I credit Manson Brown for speaking truth to power,” Papp said.

 

In recent years, Brown led a Coast Guard effort to improve sexual assault prevention and outreach. A civil engineer by training, he also oversaw recovery operations after Hurricane Sandy wrought $270 million in damage to Coast Guard property, Papp said.

All of the other members of the USCGA Class of 1978 are proud of him.

Every officer and enlisted member of the USCG is proud of him, because had it not been for Manson Brown the USCG may not have a Headquarters in Washington, DC.

The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, billed as critical for national security and the revitalization of Southeast Washington, is running more than $1.5 billion over budget, is 11 years behind schedule and may never be completed, according to planning documents and federal officials.

With the exception of the Coast Guard Headquarters building that opened in 2013, most of the DHS site remains entirely undeveloped. The present estimated completion date of 2026 is being reconsidered with a view towards 2030, or later; and, possibly even never.

 Vice Admiral Manson Brown saved the Coast Guard and the relocation of Coast Guard Headquarters. This was his last major project in the years before he retired. Now, DHS, may wish their agency had a man like Manson K. Brown.


VADM Brown retired on May 14, 2014 as Deputy Commandant for Mission Support and Commander of Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington,DC. Perhaps if he could have been persuaded to stay around for a few more years he could have overseen the transition and move of the DHS Headquarters to the new site. But, they would probably have had to make him Commandant of the Coast Guard to do that.

Instead, on behalf of a grateful Nation, and the entire Coast Guard we wished him fair skies, favorable winds and following seas in his well deserved retirement.

 

 

 

ice Adm. Manson K. Brown, the deputy commandant for mission support, and Master Chief Petty Officer Richard Hooker tour the construction site of the newly constructed Coast Guard Headquarters here June 28, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Tamargo – See more at: http://allhands.coastguard.dodlive.mil/2014/05/14/after-36-years-of-service-vadm-manson-k-brown-retires-from-active-duty/dcms/#sthash.XBrxWQcr.dpuf

(Above VADM Manson K. Brown, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, and Master Chief Richard Hooker tour the construction site for the new Coast Guard Headquarters on June 28, 2012.)

(U. S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Petty Officer  2nd Class Timothy Tamargo)

 

Brown said his achievements would not have been possible without the legacy forged by the first Black officers in the early years of the Coast Guard.

“When I saw him (LT London Steverson) at the front door in full uniform, a Black man, I saw a vision for the future. He convinced my mother to let me visit the (U S Coast Guard) Academy and I was hooked, Brown said.”

At first, Brown’s mother was reluctant to let him join the military as war raged in Vietnam, he said at the ceremony.

 

 

But then London Steverson, the second Black graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (Class of 1968), visited the Brown family home in Ward 4.

“I convinced his mother that her son would not be taken advantage of and would not be a token” black student at the academy, Steverson said. “He was the best of the best. I knew that he could survive.”

 

After graduating from St. John’s College High School in the District, Brown enrolled in the Coast Guard Academy’s Class of 1978, headed to a life patrolling the seas even though he didn’t know how to swim. As a cadet, one of his first assignments was to learn basic strokes.

He later helped create a campus network for minority students at the school. In 1977, he became the first African American to lead the U.S. Coast Guard Academy corps of cadets, the Coast Guard’s student body.

“The vast majority of my career, people embraced me for my passion and ability,” Brown said. When incidents of racism arose, “I decided to confront it at its face.”

 

Serving aboard the USCGC Glacier (WAGB-4), an icebreaker, during his first assignment as a young officer, Brown said he had to confront racism almost immediately. He noticed that one older white subordinate, a popular chief petty officer, seemed agitated by his presence. Brown decided to settle the matter face to face.

“He said there was no way he was going to work for a Black man,” Brown said. “My head pounded with anger and frustration.”

But other enlisted leaders on the ship rallied behind Brown. Throughout the rest of his career, Brown was recognized for his inspirational leadership and zeal.

Growing up in the inner city

Brown grew up in northwest Washington, DC. “My parents both worked. We were a middle-class family who lived in the inner city. My mother and father promoted strong family values in a very threatening, conflicted environment. My dad worked three jobs to send us to private school.

 

“Most of the guys I grew up with are no longer with us,” he observes. “One friend of mine went into the Air Force and I joined the Coast Guard. The military was our ticket to better opportunities.”

 

Brown attended the academically rigorous St. John’s College High School in DC. His approach to choosing a college was to pick up every brochure on the guidance counselor’s rack. “I got interest cards for whatever was there and mailed them all out. It was a blind draw.”

 

Hooked on the Coast Guard

Brown was personally recruited to the Coast Guard Academy (USCGA, New London, CT) by then Lieutenant London Steverson, the second African American USCGA graduate. “Of all the people courting me, he was the only one who came to the house. When I saw him at the front door in full uniform, a Black man, I saw a vision for the future,” Brown states. “He convinced my mother to let me visit the campus and I was hooked.”

 

Brown entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1974. “My class started with 400 students and graduated 167,” Brown says. “Of twenty-two African Americans at the beginning, six graduated. A lot of that was academic challenge, but a lot was also cultural challenge. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were pioneers in a process to transform the Academy culture to become more supportive of diversity.”

 

He continues, “I had gone to a predominantly white high school so I had already been through the acculturation process. That was probably an advantage I had over my African American classmates at the Academy.”

 

His original interest was in Marine Science but he missed the cut. Instead, he got his second choice: civil engineering. Brown admits, “At that time, all I knew was that it was about building buildings, but it turned out to be pretty useful.

 

“I look at system problems like an engineer,” he says. “I found discipline in the engineering profession. Even today, my approach to problem solving uses the FADE process: focus, analyze, develop and execute.”

 

He graduated from the USCGA in 1978. Brown knew that he did not want to go back to DC. “I knew that to survive, I had to leave,” he says. “It was a mature thought at an immature age.”

 

Brown has since earned two masters degrees, in civil engineering in 1985 from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and in national resources strategy in 1999 from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF, now the Eisenhower School at National Defense University, Washington, DC).

 

On being a leader

“I always had a technical inclination. But when I got to the Coast Guard Academy, all the personality profiles said that I was geared toward the soft sciences. Even though I love being an engineer, my passion rests with people so maybe the sociologists were right,” he says with a laugh.

 

Brown mentors “the long blue line,” working hard to help people who are coming up the ranks. “I’m proactive with groups like the civilian advisory board, women’s groups, African Americans, Asians, and Hispanic groups. I’ve shared time with them and stated how important they are to me. From them I get the feedback that when I am visible and successful, they feel empowered.”

 

Exciting assignments mark a career

Brown has enjoyed several challenging, high-profile assignments during his thirty-six-year Coast Guard career.

From 1999 to 2002 he was the military assistant to the secretary of transportation, when the Coast Guard was still part of the Department of Transportation. “I was in that job for 9/11. After that, I became acting deputy chief of staff for that department.”

He assumed positions of responsibility in Florida, Hawaii and California, where he oversaw counter-narcotics trafficking missions and other operations spanning 73 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. He served as the military assistant to two U.S. secretaries of transportation and spent three months in Iraq in 2004, leading the restoration of two major ports.

 

In 2003, he was chief of officer personnel management at the Coast Guard Personnel Command when Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta called, explaining that Ambassador to Iraq Paul Bremerneeded “a transportation guy” in Baghdad in two weeks. Bremer was the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. He was essentially the president of Iraq at that time,” Brown notes, “and I was his secretary of transportation.”

 

In Baghdad, Brown was the senior advisor for transportation to the Coalition Provisional Authority, overseeing restoration of transportation systems throughout Iraq. “I followed the FADE process every step of the way. We got Iraqi Airways flying again the last week I was there. We got the trains running and the ports open. I was there for three months, and three months in a war zone is like three years anywhere else. I was a ‘gap guy’ until they found someone else because I didn’t want to walk away from my Coast Guard career.”

 

Reflecting and learning

“I learned so much about America in a crisis and I respect what we tried to do. I have nothing but respect for the Iraqi people and what they went through,” he reflects.

 

Brown has been married for thirty-two years; he and his wife have three grown sons. He has learned to make his family part of his profession and his profession part of his family. “I wasn’t good at it back in the early innings,” he admits, “but as I’ve matured, I’ve gotten better.”

 

Vice Admiral Brown is the third African American to reach flag rank in the U.S. Coast Guard and the first to become a three-star. He has received many medals, awards and commendations.

Brown’s Coast Guard father, Judge London Steverson, USALJ (Ret.) wanted him to become Commandant of the U S Coast Guard. He began to write about the accomplishments and career advancements of Admiral Brown. He published them in a blog online along with pictures. He chronicled all of Admiral Brown’s noteworthy achievements that would be of public interest. These were things that could persuade a Selection Board for Commandant that the time was right to select the Coast Guard’s first Black Commandant.

After Admiral Brown had reached the highest echelons of the officer corps, his assignments and accomplishments became as important to Steverson as rare paintings would be to an art collector. These were the stuff that could sway a selection board and possibly alter the course of American History.

Every Vice Admiral considered for the position of Commandant has been more than qualified for the job. None of the people in the selection process: President of the United States or Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security would be making a decision based on qualifications, or “best qualified”. They would be making a political decision. They would be looking at not only Admiral Brown, but also at his family, his marital stability, the social marketability of his family, the accomplishments and failures of his children, his brothers and sisters. They would consider his entire social fabric.

So, when Admiral Brown had achieved success at something that did not depend merely on his personal skills as a commissioned officer, it was necessary to chronicle the big picture of him as a family man, a loyal husband, and a devoted father. When the Selection Board met to determine the next Commandant they would also be considering for selection, Admiral Brown’s wife (Herminia) and his three sons (Manson Justin, Robert Anthony, and William Mathew).

Always ready

The Coast Guard motto is semper paratus, Latin for “always ready.” Brown takes that to heart.

 

“There may be a downturn in the perceived value of our services but then something inevitably happens like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Deepwater Horizon, Hurricane Katrina, or 9/11, and the demand for those services escalates again,” Brown observes. “I tell my people to watch CNN for the next big thing; you’ll know it when you see it. You can’t manage based only on what’s going on today. You have to have a long view.”

 

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Who Played The Race Card in the Webster Smith Case? A 2nd Look at The Case That Will Live In Infamy.

United States Coast Guard Academy - graduation...

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Who Played The Race Card In The Webster Smith Case?

Who played the race card in the Webster Smith case? Was it Commandant of Cadets Doug Wisniewski and CWO2 David French? Or was it Webster Smith’s defense team? Could it have been the news media? Someone certainly did, because the race of the accused was reported before the trial began. Early newspaper reports of the investigation and pending trial carried a picture of the accused. Cadet Webster Smith was shown wearing his formal mess dress uniform. Only the Commandant of Cadets at the Academy had access and authority to release such a personal photo of Cadet Smith. It was a deliberate move to put a face on the alleged crime. The Coast Guard wanted to paint it black. Webster Smith was intended to become the poster child of the sexual predator at the Coast Guard Academy.

Playing the race card in this instance was clearly a racist act. The social and legal meaning of “racism” is in a state of flux. In this post-Civil Rights era, we have no clear and agreed-upon meaning for the term. This has lead to confusion and disagreement. Reasonable people of goodwill may make sincere claims of racist behavior that strike others as wrong and misdirected. The Civil Rights movement succeeded in convincing most Americans that racial bias and prejudice is wrong and fundamentally un-American.

Playing the race card is not new. It is wrong and troubling for several reasons; it is dishonest; and, it typically involves jumping to a conclusion that is not compelled by the facts. The Case of Webster Smith involves objective facts that people can observe and verify.

What the people who singled out Webster Smith for court-martial did not seem to foresee was that playing the race card is dangerous and shortsighted. Also, it is just plain mean-spirited. Racism ruins careers and destroys reputations. Webster Smith’s career as a Coast Guard officer died before it was born. Captain Douglas Wisnewski’s career was side-tracked; and, Admiral Van Sice’s career was not permitted the honorable end that it deserved.

Overuse and abuse of the claim of bias is bad for the Coast Guard and military justice, as well as society at large. Any claim that the race card was played in the Webster Smith Case inevitably provokes defensiveness and resentment from certain quarters. Playing the race card in this case probably lead to a presumption of guilt. Webster Smith was not able to receive a fair trial in that environment. He was constitutionally entitled to a presumption of innocence. Presuming the worst is understandable in a society in which racism persists but is rarely openly expressed. About two generations after the Coast Guard Academy opened its doors to its first Black cadet, racism reared its ugly head in a most daring and pernicious way.

Excerpts from The Day newspaper concerning the court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith said as follows:
Defense lawyers say race is a factor in the case. Smith is black, his accusers are white, and defense attorneys suspect the women conspired to bring false accusations against him.
If race wasn’t a factor when six women accused Smith of sexual misconduct, Merle Smith said, it might have been when a seventh woman came forward and the academy added new charges. Most of the sex-related charges have been dismissed.

“…as this thing has continued to evolve, I guess, as the first 16 charges didn’t appear to be going well, I guess they had to find another eight to see if they could make that case,” Merle Smith said.
Academy officials have said they will not comment on specific allegations before the trial.

The jury of Coast Guard officers included four white men, one white woman, three black men and a man of Asian descent.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen was correct. In his State of the Coast Guard address he said, “We have never been more relevant and we have never been more visible to the Nation we serve”.

We are more visible because we have received more publicity. For some people craving recognition, all publicity is good. It is free advertising. Not for an old and venerated service. For an old public service, bad publicity can be dangerous and disastrous.

There was security in our obscurity. Publicity is a blessing and a curse. You can no longer be hidden and presumed to be ethical, and competent. Now you have to demonstrate that competence, and you have to demonstrate the high moral behavior that you claim to have and want to instill in those coming after you. You cannot just talk that talk; now, you have to walk that walk.

The Smith case is the first court-martial of a cadet in the Academy’s history. The Smith case brought a lot of sudden attention.

The end of Admiral James Van Sice’s military career was more difficult news for the Academy. It has experienced a series of cadet run-ins with the law. The first and most prominent incident happened under Van Sice’s watch. He is the father of the Webster Smith debacle; however, he may not be the author. History will be the final judge, but it appears that the conspiracy was hatched in the Halls of Congress. Most of the evidence that I have been able to uncover and place in context points to former Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays.

The Commandant of the Coast Guard would have gone a long way toward restoring public faith in the Coast Guard and in the Academy, if he had punished Admiral Van Sice more appropriately and if he had been more forthcoming with the details of his misconduct and the type of punishment.

Smith’s attorneys, who raised the possibility that the charges could have been racially motivated, said they were pleased by the jury’s diversity. Smith was Black and all of the accusers were white.

In a January 21, 2006 article in The Day newspaper it was reported that from 1993 until the spring semester of 2005, the Coast Guard Academy had 10 reported incidents of sexual misconduct, according to information provided by the Academy. Of those, six incidents resulted in dismissal of the accused and two ended in resignation. In the remaining two cases, there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges.

One of the other two complaints, stemming from the first semester of 2005-06, resulted in a confession and the Dec. 15 dismissal of a first-year male student, who departed immediately, according to Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) French. He stated that a female cadet reported non-consensual sexual advances from a freshman male in the Chase Hall barracks, the dormitory where all students reside.

No criminal charges were filed, according to CWO French. Notice French said non-consensual sexual advances, when in point of fact it was rape, since the female cadet did not give her consent.

It is safe to assume that none of the male cadets involved were African American, because whenever a Black male is involved the news report very explicitly points out that the male was Black, as was reported in the Webster Smith case. Smith, a linebacker on the academy’s football team, was charged Feb. 9, 2006 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) ,military law ,with rape, assault, indecent assault and sodomy against female cadets.

The Associated Press reported on February 25, 2006 that a cadet was kicked out instead of prosecuted.

A local civilian prosecutor in New London, CT said he was reviewing how information is exchanged with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy after learning a cadet who admitted sexual misconduct wasn’t prosecuted but kicked out of school last year.

New London State’s Attorney Kevin Kane would not say whether he believes he has jurisdiction in the case.

An academy spokesman said he could not comment on the case, citing privacy rules.

“It was fully investigated and handled appropriately,” Chief Warrant Officer David French, the Academy spokesman, said.

According to an Academy discipline summary, the male cadet was expelled in December after admitting to sexual misconduct that was determined to be non-consensual.

So, there were 10 reported cases from 1993 to 2005, and not one resulted in a court-martial. The first report of sexual misconduct involving a Black cadet resulted in a General court-martial. It was not just any court-martial, but the type reserved for murder, treason, and assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm.

The Coast Guard Academy had 982 students, nearly 30 percent of whom were women. If a report involving sexual assault or misconduct is made to the chain of command the Coast Guard Investigative Service, CGIS, must examine it.

“The commandant of cadets, CAPT Douglas Wisniewski, took immediate action to initiate the investigation into the allegations”, CWO2 David French said. French declined a request for an interview with Commandant of Cadets, Capt. Douglas Wisniewski. The Coast Guard Academy largely limited its responses to brief written statements delivered by e-mail.

Captain Doug Wisniewski, who graduated from the Academy with the last all-male class, was replaced by the first woman to hold the post, Captain Judith Keene, who graduated in the second class to accept women.

“Sexual misconduct at the academy is defined as “acts that disgrace or bring discredit on the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Academy and are sexual in nature”, including lewd or lascivious acts, indecent exposure or homosexual conduct. But the definition also includes consensual acts that are prohibited on academy grounds, such as holding hands, kissing in public or sex. This does not include rape, because rape is not a consensual act.

If the Academy disposes of 10 cases of sexual misconduct without a court-martial, but on the 11th case of a report of sexual misconduct it convenes a General court-martial, is that playing the race card? What if all 10 of the first cases involved only white cadets, but the 11th case involved a Black cadet? One has to ask why the Black cadet was singled out for a court-martial. Of the three types of courts-martial available, the most extreme was chosen; that is, a General Court-martial. If found guilty, a Summary Court-martial could have awarded 30 days in jail as punishment; a Special Court-martial could have awarded up to six months; but, a General Court-martial could have awarded life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Is it wrong for Black people to ask if there is a double standard? Would that amount to paranoia on the part of Black people? Or would that be considered playing the race card simply to inquire? Is it absurd to believe that anything more than pure chance resulted in the court-martial of Webster Smith? The fact that he was court-martialed speaks to a social reality that African-Americans are acutely aware of in America. Race is not a card to be dealt, but it determines whom the dealer is and who gets dealt a losing hand. In this case Doug Wisniewski dealt the cards, and he dealt from the bottom of the deck

Whites are generally reluctant to acknowledge racism, but they are quick to accuse Black people of playing the race card. The tendency for whites to deny the extent of racism and racial injustice is reflected in the opinions solicited in Norwich on the day that Webster Smith was found guilty and later sentenced to six months in the brig. White comments were generally that this was a reasonable conclusion to the entire sorry affair. An Academy employee said that this is good. It shows that the Academy took timely and effective action. This was evidence of white denial and total indifference to Black persecution.

The Convening Authority for the court-martial was the Superintendent of the Academy, Admiral James Van Sice. Unbelievably, Admiral Van Sice went out of his way to talk to Belinda Smith, Webster Smith’s mother, during the trial. He kept assuring her that everything was going to be alright. On several occasions he told her that as soon as the trial was over, everything was going to be alright. One has to wonder for whom was he speaking. Was Admiral Van Sice in denial or did he think that Belinda and Cadet Webster Smith were expendable?

Perhaps this is why, contrary to popular belief, research indicates that people of color are actually reluctant to allege racism, be it on the job, or in schools, or anywhere else. Far from playing the race card at the drop of a hat, it is actually the case that black and brown folks typically stuff their experiences with discrimination and racism, only making an allegation of such treatment after many, many incidents have transpired, about which they said nothing for fear of being ignored or attacked.

So says Tim Wise, activist, lecturer and director of the new Association for White Anti-Racist Education (AWARE). Tim Wise works from anecdote rather than academic argument to recount his path to greater cultural awareness in a colloquial, matter-of-fact quasi-memoir that urges white people to fight racism ‘for our own sake.’ Wise is the author of two books: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (Soft Skull Press, 2005), and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White. In White Like Me, Wise offers a highly personal examination of the ways in which racial privilege shapes the lives of most white Americans, overtly racist or not, to the detriment of people of color, themselves, and society.

Precisely because white denial has long trumped claims of racism, people of color tend to under-report their experiences with racial bias, rather than exaggerate them. When it comes to playing the race card, it is more accurate to say that whites are the dealers with the loaded decks.

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