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U.S. troops battling racism report high barrier to justice

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US troops battling racism report barriers to justice

In the U.S. military, troops outnumber civilian employees 2 to 1. But civilians file far more discrimination complaints. Service members say there’s a reason: The Equal Opportunity process is fraught with risks for warriors, and it helps mask the full extent of racial discrimination in the armed forces.

By the time he saw a swastika scrawled in the bathroom at Barksdale Air Force base in October 2018, Deven Sherk was already disillusioned with how the Air Force handled racism complaints. The Black airman had filed a complaint alleging discrimination that June when a fellow airman, a white man, hung a noose near him on the base.

“I felt that was a direct threat to my life,” said Sherk, who was a staff sergeant specializing in B-52 bomber maintenance at the time.

Along with the noose, he reported seeing a whip on display at the hangar where he worked, with slogans including “Fuckin Attitude Adjuster” written in marker. Sherk says he never felt the Air Force's Equal Opportunity office took seriously his complaints of racism. So, he decided against filing a formal complaint about the swastika.

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