Maj. Gen. Michael Keltz is a decorated combat pilot who lead task forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also the commander of the 19th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph until last week when he resigned amid controversy surrounding his use of, what is loosely termed, a racial slur. The 2-star general’s service to our country and his accomplishments meant nothing because he said something a small group of people may have found offensive.
The San Antonio Express reports that while participating in a disciplinary hearing for a lower ranking officer accused of drunkenness, Keltz made this statement:
Maj. Gen. Michael Keltz…told an accused officer that he appeared “drunker than 10,000 Indians” in a photo of him and another airman.
In true military-speak, the Air Force confirmed that Keltz made that statement:
“I’ll confirm those were the words spoken,” said Col. Sean McKenna, chief spokesman for the Air Education and Training Command. “I just can’t confirm what happened in the Article 15 (disciplinary) hearing.”
Because of that statement and the uproar surrounding it, Keltz resigned his command with his bosses saying he “inadvertently made an unfortunate comment.”
So he lost his job because he said someone looked “drunker than 10, 000 Indians. Unfortunate comment? Yes. Racially insensitive? Maybe. Racial slur or hate speech? Not even close. First, you will notice that he didn’t direct the comment to a Native American, but there’s even more.
It turns out that American Indians actually do struggle with alcohol abuse and alcoholism. From Wikipedia:
Native Americans in the United States have historically had extreme difficulty with the use of alcohol. Problems continue among contemporary Native Americans…it has been shown that alcoholism tends to run in families with possible involvement of differences in alcohol metabolism and the genotype of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes.
And of those alcohol-metabolizing enzymes, The Lords of the Drinks tells us:
How come native Americans and Aboriginals are in general more likely to get hooked on booze? It’s all because their bodies usually break down ethanol into water and acid way slower than the other races. Let’s first describe this process. When you drink alcoholic drinks the ethanol is metabolized (transformed) into something called acetaldehyde. This is being done by an enzyme in your body called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). So the more ADH your body produces, the faster the process. Apparently a lot of Native Americans miss out on this enzyme (according to analysis on chromosome 4 and 11) and that increases the risk of becoming alcoholic.
Native Americans not only have a genetic disposition for alcoholism, they also have a genetic quirk that makes alcohol affect them more severely than other people. It’s not a racial slur to imply Indians struggle with alcohol consumption; it’s science. Sure, it’s not a very nice thing to say, but it isn’t a negative stereotype; it’s based in fact.
Unfortunately for General Keltz, these are ridiculously politically correct times and the outrage police have no tolerance for anything that might offend a minority group. I suspect if he had said “10, 000 drunken Irishmen” this would be a non-issue because the rules of racism are complicated and confusing. Instead, a man that served his country with honor and distinction is out of a job for making a stupid little comment that didn’t hurt anyone.