Racism is so deep in the United States that Black people are rarely surprised by headlines such as: “US soldier who posted about killing Black people given top security pass” (Guardian, September 8); and “The Justice Department Got Creative to Rid the Army of a Self-Avowed ‘Nazi’” (Rolling Stone, September 2).
However, it wasn’t his Nazism or white supremacist views and threats that led to 21-year-old white soldier Killian Ryan being arrested by the FBI and later discharged from the Army for “serious misconduct”. It was for not mentioning on his security clearance form that his biological father was a felon.
Ryan was charged with knowingly making a false statement, according to court records. However, for wanting to kill Black people? No charges. Normally, lying on a security clearance form would revoke a soldier’s clearance, not prompt a discharge.
Prosecutors allege that Ryan operated social media accounts where he was in contact with white extremists. He also allegedly made the claim on social media that he decided to join the military to kill Black people.
A case was filed against Ryan late last month, accusing him of providing false information on a security clearance form to serve at Fort Bragg, according to CBS News. Rolling Stone broke the story “at a time when the US military is trying to purge its ranks of extremists and white supremacists,” reported CBS News.
Ryan allegedly claimed on his security clearance form that he hadn’t been in contact with his biological father for more than 10 years and that his biological father wasn't listed on his birth certificate. According to court records, Ryan’s biological father was convicted in Washington state and California on drug charges and car theft.
Ryan reportedly needed clearance to work with intelligence on enemy positions as well as information about US weapons systems.
According to CBS News, the FBI informed the Army earlier this year that Ryan was under criminal investigation. The investigation “uncovered violent and racist remarks on multiple social media accounts, which had apparently eluded the agency which authorized his army credentials.
“On one of his web accounts, Ryan posted: ‘I serve for combat experience so I’m more proficient in killing n*****s.’
“For one of his Instagram accounts, Ryan used an email that contained the name ‘naziace1488’, according to court records.”
In their Rolling Stone article, Adam Rawnsley and Seamus Hughes wrote: “The numbers 14 and 88 in combination are frequently used by white supremacist movements as shorthand references to both an infamous ‘14 words speech’ by white supremacist David Lane and ‘Heil Hitler’, words which begin with the eighth letter of the alphabet. The numbers, according to the Anti-Defamation League, ‘are ubiquitous within the white supremacist movement — as graffiti, in graphics and tattoos, even in screen names and e-mail addresses’.”
The current US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, is African American. He says he wants white supremacists out of the military. But the institution, rooted in bias, does not allow it. If that were truly the goal, the FBI would have charged Ryan for his racist threats, rather than finding a “creative” way to discharge him.
Ryan did not hide his intentions. It shows how institutionalised racism makes it hard for the powerful establishment to act against white racism.
To use a sports analogy, discharging Ryan for threats against Black people should have been a “slam dunk”.
The treatment of white supremacists contrasts with that of Muslims and Blacks. Muslims are falsely tied to “international terrorism”. Those who declare their faith or support for jihad (a lifetime of personal struggle in devotion of Islam) are routinely spied upon, harassed, and forced out of their jobs. Black activists opposing police violence are also targeted by the police and FBI.
Today African Americans make up 29% of the armed forces, but only 14% of the population.
Despite being the backbone of the ranks of the armed forces (except in the officer caste) Black soldiers are targeted within the military.
The armed forces were not integrated until after World War II. Black people have always served since the Revolutionary War of 1776 but have been prevented from serving as equals with whites.
The Pentagon chiefs who are mostly white with many sympathetic to racist ideology have never gone after the virus of white racism. The military was founded as a racist institution, defending slavery and later legal segregation in the country, and wars of aggression abroad.
While the Pentagon has a formal policy against white supremacy, first outlined by Austin a year ago, not much is expected to happen next. White supremacists are rising everywhere. They are a confident part of Donald Trump’s base.
A “purge” of active white supremacists in the military who openly threaten to kill Black people will not happen in this unstable political reality.