Military and Racism in Wyoming -Part 1

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 10:39 AM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Wyoming’s slogan is the “Equality State,” but it also has a legacy of discrimination.

Now that legacy has spilled over to a particular group that Wyomingites say they respect the most in our state.

According to F.E. Warren officers, four military families of color have transferred out of the state.

The reason was that these service members and their children faced repeated racial discrimination from the community, including schoolmates.

Military authorities said the diversity our military brings is a source of strength in Wyoming.

“Great communities are diverse. Great communities celebrate everybody that they have together with them. Great communities accept one another, and they don’t tolerate behavior like this,” says Col. Cathy Barrington, Commander- 90th Missile Wing.

With over $400M in payroll, the military is our largest employer.

When service members say they experience racially-based incidents such as being called racial slurs, completely ignored or not attended to in businesses when they are out of their uniforms, Barrington said the military would send out a letter informing the company of what occurred in the store.

This allows the owner to know a discriminatory event happened and gives them a chance to rectify the situation through additional employee training or, in some cases, the firing of an employee.

The military will restrict service members from patronizing that business if the situation is not resolved.

Barrington says this racism affects who stays, who chooses to come here, and who invests in our city and state.

Military officials are saying that service members are researching the state before deciding whether to move, and Wyoming is developing a negative reputation.

“Our nuclear mission here is vital. I need talented people who can come to work, so when we start impacting our ability to bring in top talent, that is a strategic problem,” says Barrington.

Gov. Mark Gordon says racism weakens Wyoming and leaves us vulnerable.

“It is troubling to me that we have soldiers that are protecting our very rights, that are feeling uncomfortable living here. When we have Russia rattling sabers and China doing all that it’s doing overseas, we should feel strongly about making sure that our military feel safe here and that they also know that Wyoming supports them 100 percent,” says Gordon

Air Force staff broke their silence in January when these ongoing issues came to a head.

Officials say it got so bad a serviceman’s daughter became suicidal, and another family’s son was fined for fighting when racially berated.

In part two of this story, we will have the second portion of our interviews to look at how this affects students and what we need to do to address the issue.