An officer recounts the obstacles he faced as a minority in the Navy in this debut memoir.
A black high school dropout who joined the Navy in 1975, Green retired two decades later as a decorated surface-warfare officer. There weren’t many black naval officers at the time, and Green is the first to tell readers that his was not a smooth ascendancy. The author uses his own story as a window into the institutional discrimination that he asserts has always characterized the Navy. While conditions have improved a bit since Green’s day, sailors who are female, LGBT, or from minority backgrounds continue to fight uphill battles to earn places in ships’ wardrooms, according to the author. Weaving between history and personal experience, Green’s narrative begins with Chief of Naval Operations Elmo Zumwalt’s efforts to reduce racism and sexism in the Navy and ends with Green going head-to-head with a discriminatory commanding officer in the 1990s. Along the way, he butted heads with all manner of obstacles and characters, discovered his aptitude for engineering, excelled in a system that viewed him with hostility, contended with ship explosions and helicopter crashes, and helped bend the arc of history a little closer to justice. “Unlike most sea stories,” writes Green, “this one is largely verifiable, has a mostly happy ending, and, as most old sailors would say (but not quite this way), every word of it is true.” Green has a natural raconteur’s ability, telling his story with candor and humor: “I have been in several David versus Goliath battles, created a few tipping points, and have often had the dog’s perspective, having been occasionally treated like one. Sometimes I wonder if” Malcolm Gladwell “might have been secretly following me around.” Much of the book’s drama takes place in the world of naval bureaucracy and protocols, so it does not always make for the easiest or most exciting reading. That said, Green’s account skillfully confronts the racism he faced head-on and makes no apologies for the status quo. His eloquent warnings for what he sees as America’s current crisis in leadership underscore the fact that, for the Navy, plenty of troubled water still lies ahead.
A frank and detailed memoir of service in the face of discrimination.