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Lawmakers, military brass working to eliminate racial injustice in nation’s armed forces

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – American institutions, from law enforcement to Hollywood, are re-examining their own ranks for racial bias. 

The US military is following suit. 

“The way things have always been done, is wrong. The results are repugnant,” Representative Jackie Speier, D-California, said. 

Congresswoman Jackie Speier says like law enforcement, the US military must come to terms with its own racial bias. 

“We still struggle to carve out an equal place for people of color. Struggle to ensure they have the same opportunities to serve and advance,” Speier said. 

According to a 2017 government accountability report, minority service members are much less likely to be promoted to officers.

“I think I had the first African American first sergeant in the Mississippi National Guard under my command,” Representative Trent Kelly, R-Mississippi, said. 

Republican Trent Kelly says he’s seen discrimination first-hand. 

“We know E5s, people with five years and below, are treated differently if they’re African American,” Kelly said. 

It’s not just advancement, minority servicemembers are also more than twice as likely to be prosecuted and face court martial, a trend going back thirty-two years.

“And in every single year black service members are punished at a significantly higher rate,” Col. Don Christensen said. 

Retired Air Force Colonel Don Christensen says those disparities affect every branch but says the Air Force especially needs significant reform. 

“The Air Force needs to focus on finding solutions and causes, not discrediting its own data,” Christensen said. 

Congressman Gil Cisneros, a minority veteran himself, says the solution starts with recruitment. 

“Recruiting a more diverse officer corps really helps solve this problem in the criminal justice system,” Representative Gil Cisneros, D-California, said. 

Cisneros is hopeful the military can improve, adding our armed forces have a history of leading on civil rights.

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