Hispanic and black Army officers have been promoted 10 to 50 percent less often than whites over the past 12 years, says a retired Hispanic officer who has filed a $10 million suit against the military in San Francisco.
Retired major Chris Gonzalez of San Rafael, Calif., who said the statistics were derived from Army figures, claims in his suit that "minority officers are disproportionately weeded out of the promotional process and white officers are disproportionately promoted."
Gonzalez, 44, left the Army after 20 years in 1985 and is a high school ROTC instructor in Oakland.
Maj. Greg Rixon, an Army spokesman, said the promotional system was "designed to ensure that we don't have discrimination."
Disparities in the number of low-ranking and high-ranking minority officers are probably the result of officers leaving the service voluntarily for a variety of reasons, including discrimination in local communities, Rixon said.
The Army has 94,769 commissioned officers, including 1,270 Hispanics, or 1.34 percent, and 9,916 blacks, or 10.46 percent, he said.
Out of about 16,000 officers with ranks of lieutenant colonel or higher, about 4.7 percent are black and 0.9 percent are Hispanic, Rixon said. The 376 generals include 29 blacks -- one of them Brig. Gen. Fred Gorden, the newly appointed commandant of West Point -- and no Hispanics, Rixon said.
Gonzalez, a native of Puerto Rico who received a Bronze Star for Vietnam duty in 1969-70, said he was frequently given menial job assignments during his career, such as "passing out basketballs" in Korea and running photocopying machines in the basement of the Presidio in San Francisco.
He said he wound up his career at Fort Campbell, Ky., where his job had a variety of high-sounding titles, including affirmative action officer and human resources manager, but little substance.
Gonzalez said he had been promoted from captain to major only after filing suit and was seven years behind his peers with no prospects for advancement when he retired.