birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

I wore a uniform for a decade

I wore a uniform for a decade while I was in the Army. Every day, get up, put on the same clothes. They do it intentionally. It reduces everyone to just as few points of difference as you can manage -- name, rank, service, a few other details depending on the particular type of uniform. But there's a lot of information in those other few points of difference -- height, weight, age, race, gender (or, nowadays, gender presentation).

I am almost exactly average height and weight for a white American cisgender man. I know this because I worked as a civilian for the Army, for the agency that buys tanks and other large ground vehicles intended for combat. An important factor in building these vehicles is that they fit a wide variety of body types, but not *every* body type. The Army doesn't have little people, and Andre the Giant wouldn't have been allowed to enlist either. So there's a certain range of "acceptable" sizes, delineated very clearly in extensively studied and justified and revised manuals based on average American heights and weights and proportions. I looked one up once, and in fact, my usual height and most common weight are right smack at the 50th percentile. I didn't bother measuring my other proportions to make sure I was average. Who would? What's so great about being average?

But back to the uniform. As an average white man, I never had to face discrimination in the Army. Well, there was one boss I had who was absolutely convinced I was Jewish, but I don't think he ever discriminated against me for it. But I worked with a lot of female soldiers (married one, in fact), and they all had stories of at least "soft" discrimination-slash-stereotyping. I know that most servicemembers of African, Asian, or Latin extraction suffer the same things. It took me a long time to realize that the Army isn't the pure meritocracy it wants to be.

For promotion boards, soldiers are (or maybe used to be; I've been out for a while) required to submit an official picture. The soldier's face and hands are masked when the board sees it, to prevent race from being a factor in promotions. But no one ever seems to ask, "If these senior people on these promotion boards may have racial bias, conscious or not, in that room during the board, then what about the rest of their careers?"

They Still Scratch (Redux)