As voices yearning to be heard cried out in the streets, Bree Carroll noticed the silence.
“It’s the people who sit on the sidelines that, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to do anything. It has nothing to do with me,’’’ Carroll, the 2020 Air Force Spouse of the Year, said. “You are part of the problem.’’
Carroll and Maxine Reyes, a veteran and military spouse, will moderate a town hall about race and its impact on military families. The event, expected to last about 90 minutes, will be livestreamed on Carroll’s Facebook page on Friday, June 19, at 8 p.m. Eastern time. For viewers interested in submitting questions, CLICK HERE.
The conversation comes a weeks after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25.
Floyd, a black man, died after video showed a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes. Chauvin faces a charge of second-degree murder, and the three other officers at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting.
The officers were fired as protests broke out across the country.
“The nation watched as George Floyd was murdered, and I sat back and watched as the country kind of went on fire and burned,’’ Carroll said. “Not just literally burn, but people’s anger and rage … People [were] unsure of what to do and upset even at the response of other people.’’
Carroll, a 32-year-old black woman, is doing something.
The wife of Donovan Carroll, a captain stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, helped bring together nine speakers for the town hall. All are either in the military or military spouses, including CNN’s Brianna Keilar. They’re a mixture of black and white, and all but one is a woman. Except for their military connections, their perspectives are different.
Carroll reached out to Deonte and Lakesha Cole after she saw a video of Deonte, a retired Marine, on social media discussing how race has shaded his experiences as a black man.
“There’s generally a level of guilt and shame that goes with talking about racial issues,’’ Deonte Cole said. “It’s important for people to be able to speak openly, candidly. It’s important that everybody sees each other.’’
His wife, Lakesha, adds, “One of the misconceptions is that having a military affiliation gives you the shield from racism, right? And it doesn’t, so having this town hall, we’re hoping to have some open and honest conversation.’’
While the initial idea for the town hall came after Carroll saw Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright discuss his perspective on race, she always has been interested in diversity.
In case you missed it yesterday, my boss, friend and wingman Gen. David L. Goldfein and I engaged in a dialogue on race. We hope it helps empower conversations within your teams. We must shine a light on issues and call them out before we can fix them. Thank you for your incredible support and the insightful feedback – all of your engagement contributes to us getting better at being there for each other during this time.
Posted by CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright on Thursday, June 4, 2020
Carroll grew up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood in Paterson, New Jersey, and attended North Carolina A&T, a Historically Black College and University. She earned an engineering degree, but not even her level of education protected her from feelings of isolation.
Carroll said she often has been the only black woman in a group.
“It has been a weight that you can’t really escape,’’ Carroll said.
The mother of three young children, Carroll said she is hopeful that Floyd’s death won’t be in vain.
There are some positive signs. The Marines recently banned the Confederate flag on installations, and the Navy has moved to prohibit its display as well. The Air Force has also directed the inspector general to independently review the service’s record on military discipline and developmental opportunities for African American Airmen and Space Professionals, according to a press release.
“I am optimistic that there will be change,’’ Carroll said. “I’m also a realist, and it is not happening tomorrow.’’