The head of the Air Force Academy told racists in the ranks to “get out” after racial slurs were found written on the message boards on the doors of the dorm rooms of five African-American cadet candidates this week.
One of the cadet candidates’s mothers posted a photo on Facebook of the write-on, wipe-off board on which her son found the message “go home n—er.”
“These young people are supposed to bond and protect each other and the country,” the mother wrote, according to Air Force Times. “Who would my son have to watch out for? The enemy or the enemy?”
“The word has zero power in my house,” the young man’s father told the paper. “Zero power. The word is not going to yield a reaction. My initial advice to him was, respond with intelligence, do not react, do not get upset. You don‘t have to defend intelligence, you don’t have to defend common sense, you don’t have to defend confidence. He’s fine.”
“The real victim here is that individual [who wrote the slurs], because that individual is going to lose a promising career in the military,” the father added. “That individual is going to go home disgraced. Him or her is the real victim, because they were raised with that kind of vitriol and that kind of hate. My son is not a victim, I don’t view him as a victim.”
Stars and Stripes reported that a single individual is suspected to be behind all incidents because of the handwriting match. The official investigation by Air Force Academy Security is ongoing; the perpetrator could face charges of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Air Force Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria addressed all cadets, faculty, staff and cadet candidates on Thursday. “If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” he said. “That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School, has no place at USAFA and has no place in the United States Air Force.”
The school held a forum for cadets to talk about race issues after the August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.; Silveria noted that leaders received “outstanding feedback” from that session.
“It’s the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all make-up, all upbringing,” he said. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.”
Silveria told the academy: “If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Thursday that the Air Force “needs to investigate this incident thoroughly and take appropriate action.”
“There is no place in the military for these kinds of acts,” Smith said. “Incidents like these, even if they are performed by a single individual, offend our moral sensibilities and they can undermine the morale of service members and cadets. It is a bedrock principle that everyone in the U.S. military should be treated with dignity and respect.”