Difficult to understand

Posted by lex, on November 19, 2020

Glen(n) * links to a disturbing story concerning a US Navy recruiter, and a 2002 policy **with which he disagreed:

The policy set a limit on the number of minorities admitted into the Navy whose scores on a standardized test classified them as “lower mental groups.”

Hudson’s objection to that was so strong it led him to take on a role he had never pondered: whistle-blower. Today, four years later, he feels he’s still suffering consequences for that act of conscience.

A scenario came to his mind: two would-be sailors — one black, the other white — are in a recruiting office. They score the same on the battery of aptitude tests given to every military applicant. They appear to be equally eligible to become members of the United States Navy.

The recruiter tells the white applicant, “Welcome.”

But, under the new instructions, the black recruit is told, “Try us next month.”

Lieutenant Hudson complained up his chain of command, which was appropriate and in fact mandatory for an officer faced with an order he believed to be illegal. Told to enforce the policy, he later went around his chain of command to file an EOC complaint. That apparently got him in hot water, even though a Navy IG found the policy legally “indefensible.” He claims that he suffered reprisal in the form of an adverse fitness report because he had blown the whistle.

I know the modern Navy well enough to know that, no matter how many problems we may have, institutional racism is not one of them. That of course, is a very easy thing for a white, anglo-saxon, Protestant officer to say, but every flag officer I hear speak on the subject of race insists that we have to do better on diversity, which is not the kind of thing you hear from a redneck network. The culture they’re trying to create is one of an “employer of preference” for smart and hard-working people of every race, color and creed. They’re very much hoping for good people of every stripe at the top of the organization, visibly performing as leaders, mentors and positive examples. They mean it, and they’re not willing to push unqualified people into positions calculated to embarass either the Navy or themselves to do so. Hence, quality.

It appears that the underlying goal of the accession instruction was to level-load vocational aptitude test-based success among all ethnic groups, using test results as a proxy for intelligence. Since minorities in the service are represented in rough proportion to their overall numbers in society, the concern must have been that a greater proportion of people in certain minority groups who were considering enlistment were under-performers, scoring in the bottom quintile. If that were true, it would be easy to see why the Navy would want to level out that representation by competing for higher quality candidates rather than let the first guy through the door fill the quota. We would do this not only because intelligence has a value all of its own in a technical service, but because we send our crews to sea together in ships for long periods, and in such a heremetic environment the social implications of any one group being over-represented by under-achievers (or vice-versa) would be pernicious to our overall goals and unit cohesion.

This is not to put forth the slur that certain ethnic groups are more likely to fall in the lowest quintile on vocational aptitude tests – the bell curve is the bell curve, and every standard distribution will have performers distributed throughout the five quintiles. Instead, it is the overall number in the sample size (and every quintile within it) that is affected by minority status. The basic definition of which – when unloaded of its modern emotional freight – means “fewer of.”

Although I don’t have access to the data, it seems to me that in a country our size (and with a Navy as small as ours is becoming) the problem isn’t that any one group is over-represented in the bottom quintile – the notion is stochastically absurd – so much as the fact that the competition for top performers is so very keen. Everyone wants to attract high-performing people of every ethnicity, and faced with top-tier competition the service might not be an employer of first resort. In other words, to meet “diversity” quotas with IBM and UCLA competing in the same talent pool might very well mean finding yourself competing for what’s left over, with an over-representation collecting in the lower quintiles. Which takes us back to a place we don’t want to be.

Thus the conundrum: In attempting to satisfy the laudable intent of simultaneously increasing the quality and diversity of our workforce, planners found themselves inadvertantly sidestepping into an accession policy that was racist in effect.

Understanding how we got here and why the policy was flawed is important even though it was rescinded in a matter of a few weeks. But it’s also important to know that young officers can challenge what they believe to be – and what were later proved to be – illegal orders without fear of professional consequence.

I certainly hope there’s more to the lieutenant’s tale than what is found in the Tennessean.

Back To The Index 

** 09-12-20  Link gone; no substitute found – Ed.

*** 09-12-20 Tennessean link gone; substitute for their quote found – Ed.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Military

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