Kitty Hawk Mutiny
Following the civil rights demonstrations of the 60s, White people went over board in trying to erase any perceived appearance of racism. When I finished basic training and Engineman A school in 1962 and arrived at the submarine base in New London, Connecticut, I had not yet taken my naval career seriously and started hanging out with a group of young Black sailors who weren’t in the submarine program. It was a time when a Black sailor could get away with anything because everyone was so afraid of the race issue. Go AWOL?, no problem, just start jiving the supervisor. Didn’t finish your assigned tasks?, no problem, just say f—it!
This was also the time when we started protesting to make the Afro haircut a legal regulation style for Black sailors. The navy eagerly capitulated.
Senior White petty officers were sometimes complicit in that they were often afraid to discipline Black sailors for fear of being labeled as “racist”. This eventually led to a disintegration of military order and resentment from White sailors who were often punished for the same infractions. There would be groups of young Black sailors taking over the base recreation centers, barracks lounges, and enlisted clubs where they wouldn’t allow anything other than soul music to be played. Moreover, these young Blacks were mostly stuck in the service ratings because of their poor education and poor scoring on the enlistment exams. Their job performance left them little chance for advancement.
After almost flunking out of submarine school, I gave up hanging out as I could see no benefit to it. These guys were stuck in the same ghetto mindset that I had seen back in the hood in Detroit. I didn’t have to be “cool” to be cool. When I reported to my first submarine duty station, I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t approach my career with that racial chip on my shoulder.
In 1972, the navy was rocked by a race riot on board the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.
This incident caused both ripples and over reaction by the navy. The navy created it’s own affirmative action program and ordered every sailor to attend classes on race. The only problem though, was that these classes were often facilitated by angry Black petty officers who were, in my opinion, racist themselves. The first several programs I attended, the facilitator would greet each attendee as they entered the class room with the Black power sign for Blacks and then telling each White sailor that they were “racists”.
Since racism was not a serious problem on submarines, we would bewilder the facilitators with our cavalier attitudes and eventually labeled the classes as “Watermelon U” or “Watermelon Universities”. The programs weren’t helping race relations, they were hurting it. I had a young fellow crew mate who was in tears because the facilitator had called him a racist.
Not only that, but the navy program ignored the other races and ethnic groups that were in the service. Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, etc.
I am starting to see the same old crap resurface again. No matter the inequities, you cannot pander to one group of people without causing a backlash in another. When you tell a White college applicant that he can’t get into college because of a “quota” system, it creates resentment. When a White police officer is afraid to arrest a Black felon because he’s afraid he’ll be videotaped, it creates resentment.
Even the demands for reparations are starting to resurface as well as meaningless laws being proposed. Why do we need a “hate crime” law if it’s only exercised in some cases, but not in others? Why do we need an “anti lynching law”, that also will only be used in certain circumstances and can only be applied once the action is done. An elderly White store owner is dragged out onto the street by a gang of Black thugs and beaten to death with baseball bats. But that’s not “lynching”.
After 300 years, we haven’t learned that you can’t eliminate racism with laws and legislation. Only good people meeting on a common ground can do that.
Oh well, I’ve been here before and it will all pass. There will still be those who blame their poor life decisions on race, there’ll still be those who preach hate and division, and there’ll still be politicians who use the subject of race for their own benefit and do nothing once they’re elected. We once thought the election of a Black man who promised to “heal” America would be the answer. Some even thought he could walk on water. What we found was that he was just another politician with his own agenda and goals.