1 Corinthians 12:25-26

(New King James Version)

25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

I am guilty of what I am about to discuss.

At this past symposium, every time we took pictures, we could not just take a single service picture. We continued to divide ourselves into groups to take more photos: Divine Nine, HBCU, Athletes, Senior Officers, Baptist, Buddhist, Nation of Islam, etc. As of the writing of this article, plastered across the top of my Facebook page is a picture of my Spelman sisters and me. In the midst of the multiple photo sessions, I suddenly realized we have multiple affinity groups within an affinity group.

Where does it stop?

I started to get convicted about this as the days went on and, to be honest, it got ridiculous to me after a while. I noticed how some people did not fit into any of the myriad of groups we continued to break ourselves into and we started excluding each other. It made me wonder in what ways do we practice marginalization even within an organization that makes us feel marginalized?

I understand the history of the various organizations we represent and why they were created. They are institutions of empowerment for marginalized people. I understand why we need to celebrate and be proud of the Afro-Asian-Latina/o-Indigenous diaspora and all its components.

I know we are not a monolithic group. We are as diverse as any other group of people, which is what makes the world so rich, but we must be careful not to perpetuate the same unconscious bias and cronyism that has been used to justify discrimination.

We are all members of the Sea Services regardless of race, gender, faith, sexual orientation, or whatever way one chooses to be defined.

NNOA’s stated mission is:

To enhance Sea Service operational readiness by supporting recruiting, professional development, and retention in an effort to achieve a diverse officer corps that reflects the demographics of our Nation

The first line under our Guiding Principles states:

We are:

  • A professional organization comprised of active duty, reserve, retired officers, and civilians that seek diversity and inclusive membership

If we truly want to embody diversity and inclusion then I truly believe we must be a unified, equitable body.

I am not saying it is wrong to celebrate the things that make us who we are. We can celebrate the internal diversity that we have. It is needed. We can be proud of the many cultures and institutions that helped shape us into who we are today. But it cannot be to the exclusion of others.  All must feel like valued members of the body. All parts of the body are necessary, and one is not greater than the other.

When we are together as NNOA, we need to focus on being one body.

Just something to think about.