Jeffries also spoke about how race is also culturally relevant.
“In the U.S. we use race as a stand-in for cultural inheritance. We use race as a stand-in for ancestry. Because we use race as a stand-in, we can’t fall into the color-blind trap. Although we know race biologically is meaningless, although we know it has been used to create hierarchies and cause harm, because we use it as a stand-in for cultural inheritance, we can’t ignore it. We can’t pretend that we don’t see race, because we do,” said Jeffries.
According to Jeffries, psychologists state that by the time children – babies, infants, are 3-4 months old, they are able to distinguish people by race because they pick up on cues from their parents and caregivers.
“The problem with talking about race is not that we actually do it. The problem is when we discriminate against people based on it,” said Jeffries.
He also spoke about how racism manifests itself on a personal and individual level and structurally, with how racism has been embedded into entire systems that create different outcomes based upon race such as housing.
Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark Esper said in a June memorandum sent to all Department of Defense personnel that the U.S. military is an institution that embraces diversity and inclusion, and rejects hate and prejudice in all forms.
“We have led on these issues throughout our history but know that we as a military are also susceptible to the forces of bias and prejudice, whether seen or unseen, deliberate or unintentional. These things have no place in our military because they can degrade the morale, cohesion, and readiness of our force. This is why we must keep working to do better,” Esper said in the memo.
“The need to have candid, respectful dialogue with colleagues on a multitude of topics has never been more crucial,” said Dr. Deniese Key, AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate learning officer. “Sharing our perspectives, drawn from our backgrounds and experiences, helps us gain a fuller understanding of our environment. This is why open dialogue is critical to helping our people understand and support each other. We were honored to have Dr. Jeffries come and talk with us today.”