I asked Sanchez what effect Trump winning reelection in November would have on race relations. He didn’t hesitate before responding:
“I cannot see any path that would lead toward repairing or bridging the divides we have in this country, and that’s very dangerous. For the first time in my life, I have seen Americans calling Americans ‘the enemy.’ We have to move ourselves back to some form of tolerance. I don’t see that getting better under Trump.”
Here is the text of the complete statement.
During this time of instability and crisis, every American who believes in our Constitution must answer the call to duty. Countless American citizens, especially those of color, have suffered at the hands of racial injustice, police brutality, institutional discrimination, and inequality. Their souls demand action if we hope to preserve the ideals of American Democracy.
The horrific, unjust stories that have repeatedly played out on the national stage (most recently involving Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor) are unmistakable symptoms of America’s continued struggle with systemic racism and police brutality. Our national leaders must acknowledge that America has found itself in the grips of systemic racism, which continues to manifest itself in the worst possible way—the killing of Black Americans and other people of color. We must not tolerate it. We must not condone it. We must not ignore it any longer.
The ugliness of racial discrimination has manifested itself repeatedly and unmistakably in our police force’s treatment (and mistreatment) of black Americans and other people of color, but the problems run much deeper than any amount of brutality inflicted on our fellow Americans. As a nation, the United States continues to largely exclude people of color at our highest levels of leadership in just about all elements of American society, whether in the boardroom or at the highest levels of military leadership. The economic disparity that plagues our communities and limits the opportunities afforded to people of color in general (and black Americans in particular) stands in stark contrast to the experience of the rest of us. To build a better America, one that truly upholds the values on which this nation was built, we must overcome the greed, ignorance, and hate that have brought us to where we stand today.
Every American who believes in the promises embedded in our Constitution—of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and equal rights for all—needs to take a stand. We must bring substantive and enduring change to the lack of equal justice and equal opportunity for communities of color.
Once again, a clarion call for solidarity is being heard across all forms of media, and public statements are being drafted and released to the public by the leaders of an ever-wider variety of companies. Many of these executives speak of the need for fundamental and enduring change, but otherwise show no evidence of having helped to enact it in the days and weeks preceding a racially charged headline. Sadly, the racial imbalance in the leadership of so many of these companies speaks louder than any post on social media ever could. Their messages of support and solidarity must be followed by real, structural change if we ever hope to achieve lasting progress.
Over the course of my lifetime, America’s leadership has been quick to issue politically correct, carefully drafted statements of rhetorical support in response to the suffering of minorities, especially our black community, simply because it is expected of them. Then, as soon as the crisis subsides, America reverts back to its familiar, deeply embedded discriminatory institutional biases. Let us end this cycle and let us end it now.
Public statements of support from a broad spectrum of American society are necessary and can certainly be helpful in this time of need. When coupled with the diversity of the protesters who have come together in recent weeks, I believe we are witnessing a grassroots movement that will force America to continue its quest toward equal rights and non-discrimination. America is slowly reenergizing its march toward the vision of equality for all.
Any attempt to deny diversity, in all its forms, as a foundational pillar for the strength and greatness of America puts our march toward justice, equal rights, and equal opportunity at risk. In my experience, diversity is what makes our military a shining example of what equal opportunity can foster within a Democratic society. America’s military has achieved a level of equality and opportunity for advancement that is incomprehensible to political and military leaders from other nations around the world. I truly believe that America’s military is the closest our society has come to achieving the American ideal of equal opportunity and justice for all. That being said, why is it that people of color have not had equitable representation at the flag-officer level? The recent confirmation of General Charles Brown as the U.S. Air Force chief of staff is a historical event. General Brown is the first African American service chief in American history. When I retired in 2006, only three Hispanic officers had achieved the rank of lieutenant general in the history of the Regular Army. Of those, only one became a four-star general. Even at our best, we must continue to challenge ourselves.
Currently, America’s standing as an example of unity, strength, and equal opportunity for the rest of the world has been undeniably diminished. Our hyper-partisanship continues to divide us. The actions of racist, extremist elements must be explicitly condemned. If we do not condemn those actions, then we implicitly encourage them, and that is in direct opposition to our goal of equality for all.
Over my lifetime, I have witnessed the effects of systemic racism, and it remains an enduring problem in America today. Continually refusing to accept that systemic racism exists serves only to strengthen the worst tendencies of those who aim to spread fear and hate and who aim suppress those that are “not like them.”
Through inaction and implicit support, we continue to perpetuate the underlying, often subtle discriminatory practices that lead straight to injustice and inequality. These attitudes have created dangerous divisions and a hyper-partisan environment in which many Americans look at anyone with views contrary to their own as “the enemy.” This makes it easy for a leader to issue an order that leads to the abuse of fellow Americans who are exercising their Constitutional rights. As the commanding general in Iraq at the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal, I am very familiar with the dangers of official orders being stretched to the point of abuse, as well as what can happen when individuals view their enemies as subhuman. America must immediately address this growing issue and once again move society to a point where we are tolerant of dissenting views.
Ultimately, America’s leadership, at all levels, must have the moral courage to do what is right rather than what is politically expedient. Our citizens expect it and our Constitution demands it. Unfortunately, at this point in our country’s history, moral courage seems an uncommon virtue. Currently, it seems more difficult than ever to directly address racial discrimination, given the stated positions and comments coming from our highest levels of leadership. The overtly racist comments and discriminatory actions of our current president have convinced me that this administration does not actually view racial diversity as a pillar of American strength, and that it is choosing to actively ignore many elements of our Constitution.
For 33 years of my adult life, I served my country and fought for equal opportunity and equal rights for all Americans. I served alongside countless young men and women who wore our country’s uniform and embraced the ideals that seemed to allow the United States to shine as a beacon of hope for all of humankind. None among us ever expected that we would be put in the position of taking military action against our fellow Americans for exercising the very rights that we had sworn to defend. Yet that is exactly what many of our young men and women in uniform are facing today.
Every American should be gravely concerned when our leadership strays from the rights and values established by our forefathers as the guiding light for American Democracy.
We must always remember and staunchly defend the founding principles of our nation.
We must remain vigilant. We must remain strong.
Above all, we must remain united.