Written by Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife, Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida
It's a hateful word that draws upon a history of pain and suffering. What do we do with this word? Is anyone allowed to invoke the word in its full form? Does it matter if it ends in an "-a" versus an "-er?" Is it okay in art or music? Can I say it if I'm relaying the story we heard in our last episode?
I hope you understand why I am curious.
Listen and watch here.
I am a senior military leader, raised in an organization with rules and standards that are documented, published, and understood. But at times, I struggle to understand the boundaries set by society and our culture; often these rules depend on the person and situation. The rules that govern society are rarely put into written form.
Which is one reason we need to have these conversations--so we can learn where the boundaries begin and end.
In our last episode, we discussed this racial slur and how it was hurled at a squadron commander by a neighbor. In this episode, we talk more about the emotion and weight that word has—and if our self-censorship somehow lessens the painful impact it creates when it is used in a pejorative manner.
The second half of this video might be even more important than the first half. In this portion we really get after the fact these conversations can be uncomfortable simply because we do not know where to start.
Let me dwell on that for just a moment; in this episode you will hear me say Airmen have told me their leadership is disengaged, or their leadership hasn’t checked on them. Or asked "how are you doing in light of everything that is going on right now?"
I expect leaders to lead. But I also understand that leaders don't want to offend or cause harm. I hope the second half of this episode might fuel some ideas about how to approach this issue and start reaching out and checking up on our teammates.
I know I keep working on improving myself. Join me!