By Destine Wilson
From breaking barriers in high school by becoming the first Black homecoming queen to becoming the only second African American woman to serve as a three-star General in the army, Lieutenant General Gwen Bingham is not yet done breaking barriers, PERIOD.
While on her journey to breaking these barriers, she was faced with a couple of obstacles of her own, especially the barriers that come with being a woman—especially a Black woman.
So, it’s no surprise that Bingham is no stranger to racism and discriminatory practices, as she has encountered injustices for the majority of her life. In her teenage years, she was subjected to a race riot. In college, she was belittled by her college professor, who responded to her request for study advice with ‘Well, it’s a known fact that people like you don’t do well in education,’ causing her to return to her room in tears.
Despite the racial discrimination that she has faced throughout the years, she still decided to serve four years in a career that presents mental, physical, and emotional challenges—the Army.
As they say, “can’t stop, won’t stop,” Bingham decided to continue to stay in the Army because of her love of vocation, and she began to climb the ranks. Even with discriminatory remarks made by those UNDER her, she says, “I keep moving forward. I surround myself with positive-thinking people, and that’s who I am. And from that, I think I’ve been able to clear a path for women in general in the military, and certainly women of color.”
In her pursuit of remaining true to the goal of “clearing a path” for women, especially women of color, she has become a co-chair with the Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative. She is a part of the initiative’s DEPLOY (Diversify and Expand the Pipeline Of Leaders for Your military Community) Fellowship program. This program trains “military spouses of color to become the voices of color to promote and position themselves” to become the voices that support military communities.
Ultimately, Bingham works on applied research and social impact to better the lives of military families through policy.
“I would love to be on the Hill making a change on the policy side. I want to change the way military families are treated, not only from the medical standpoint, but spouse employment-wise, from the educational component, mental health, there are so many things.”
Due to her considerable efforts to increase inclusivity for military families by training, mentoring, and promoting women, her story will be included in the “Color of Freedom” display, which celebrates diversity and women like her in the country as she should be!
In an age where some women live to tear down other women, we should look at women like Bingham, who are making strides to support and include other women and see how we can become more like her.