After racial slurs were found on dormitory message boards belonging to five black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School this week, the academy’s superintendent offered a harsh rebuke of racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry.
“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone of another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said to a gathering of Air Force Academy cadets, flanked by academy officers and staff.
“If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out,” he added. “And if you can’t treat someone from another race or of different colour skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, director of public affairs for the academy, told Air Force Times that the slurs were found Monday. According to a photo posted on Facebook by one cadet candidate’s mother, “go home n—-r” had been written on one of the boards.
“This is why I’m so hurt!” she said in the post, which was posted on Wednesday and taken down on Thursday, according to Air Force Times. “These young people are supposed to bond and protect each other and the country. Who would my son have to watch out for? The enemy or the enemy?”
Herritage told Air Force Times that the academy’s security services were looking into the incident. The father of one of the cadet candidate’s involved said his son was fine and that the school was handling the situation properly. He called the incident “utter stupidity.”
Silveria said the prep school’s commander had discussed the incident with students and faculty there, and the Air Force Academy’s superintendent told officials there not to avoid it.
In his address on Thursday, which touch on race relations in the US in the wake of incidents in Charlottesville and elsewhere, Silveria told the cadets assembled to take out their phones and record his final comments, “so that we all have the moral courage together.”
“All of us on the staff tower, lining the glass, all of us in this room, this is our institution,” he said. “And if you need it, and you need my words, then you keep these words, and you use them and you remember them, and you share them and you talk about them. If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”
You can see the full video below:
— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) September 28, 2017
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