Why Are Air Force Officers’ Spouses So White?

A couple of days ago Ron Klain sent out this tweet:

It turns out that Klain blew it: this picture has nothing to do with the White House. It’s a picture of Air Force spouses from the Joint Armed Forces of Washington Luncheon a few weeks ago. Jared Keller is pissed off about this mistake:

Here’s the thing: Klain’s not totally wrong. A 2016 Pentagon report on DoD demographics found that minorities make up a third of enlisted and nearly a quarter (23%) of officers, an increase in recent years. And when it comes to elevating the voices and stories of underrepresented veterans, this photo is a fine illustration of exactly what not to do.

Given that the wives in this photo chose to marry Air Force officers — 20 percent of whom identify as a racial minority, below the rate for officers across the entire U.S. armed forces — it would make sense that there might be a distinct under-representation of black and Asian military spouses, and it’s certainly a problem. But the issue isn’t that the White House only invited white women — it’s that organizations like JAFOWL, though they serve the military and veterans communities admirably, are stuck in the f*cking 1950s.

Many others believe that groups like JAFOWL reinforce a hierarchy where officers’ spouses have a louder and more prominent voice than enlisted spouses, and Military Spouse Appreciation Day is a fantastic chance to get the Pentagon’s attention on like this. Sadly, Ron Klain ruined it with an inaccurate cheap shot at the White House — and in an age where all quarters of the government shout down their critics as “fake news,” this sort of inaccuracy can muddle the waters on a subject indefinitely.

Au contraire! Klain ruined nothing. I would never even have heard of this if not for Keller responding to Klain’s mistake. And now that he’s set the record straight, perhaps we can use the accidental publicity it generated to get the Pentagon’s attention on this after all. Would someone at CNN would like to give them a call and ask for comment?

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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