Although great accomplishments have been made since the US military was integrated 60 years ago, there still needs to be strides taken in the higher ranks. While blacks make up 17 percent of the total force, they are only 9 percent of all officers, with less than 6 percent of U.S. general officers being black.
“My hope and expectation is that, in the years ahead, more African-Americans will staff the armed forces at the highest levels,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a crowd at a ceremony commemorating the day President Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the armed forces.
Best known among the four-stars is retired Gen. Colin Powell, who later became the country’s first black secretary of state.
“They no longer cared whether I was black or white, immigrant kid or not,” Powell told the crowd. “The only thing my commanders ever told me from 1958 for the rest of my career, is ‘Can you perform?’ And that’s all we have ever asked for.”