Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. has made history.
The Senate unanimously confirmed the four-star general as the U.S. Air Force’s chief of staff in a 98-0 vote, making him the first African American to lead a U.S. military service.
His historic confirmation comes as the United States is grappling with its history of racial injustice and systemic mistreatment of black communities by law enforcement.
Brown’s confirmation happened on the same day the family of George Floyd held his funeral in Houston.
Floyd’s death has sparked protests across the United States and in many international cities. Floyd, a black man, died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Brown, who is nicknamed “CQ,” recently spoke out about the protests and reflected on his own experiences with racism, both growing up and in the military.
“As the commander of the Pacific Air Forces, a senior leader in our Air Force, and an African American, many of you may be wondering what I’m thinking about the current events surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd,” he said in a video posted on Twitter June 5.
“I’m thinking about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers and then being questioned by another military member, ‘Are you a pilot?’ ” Brown said.
The general spoke of navigating “two worlds” as well as how his nomination “provides some hope but also comes with a heavy burden” given the nation’s current focus on matters of race.
“I can’t fix centuries of racism in our country, nor can I fix decades of discrimination that may have impacted members of our Air Force,” Brown said.
Brown also discussed experiences from throughout his career, such as overhearing insensitive comments made by others who seemed unaware. He said that on occasion, his comments have been perceived to represent the perspective of all black people, when in reality it was “just my perspective informed by being African American.”
He also said he’s been told he “wasn’t black enough” by other African Americans because he was spending more time with his squadron than with them.
President Trump celebrated the confirmation in a tweet, saying he was “excited to work even more closely” with Brown.
“A historic day for America!” Trump said. “Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a patriot and Great Leader!”
As The Hill pointed out, Brown will be the first black member to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Colin Powell, a former secretary of state and retired four-star general, served as chairman from 1989 to 1993.
Brown, a decorated general who is currently the commander of the Pacific Air Forces and oversees more than 46,000 airmen serving mainly in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Japan and Korea, according to his Air Force biography.
He was first commissioned in 1984 as a distinguished graduate of the ROTC program at Texas Tech University. Brown later went on to become a command pilot with more than 2,900 flying hours, including 130 combat hours.
He’s slated to begin his four-year term as Air Force Chief of Staff after he’s sworn in on Aug 6.