Responding to several racial slurs found outside dormitories at an Air Force prep school in Colorado, the school’s superintendent told some 4,000 cadets, faculty, and staff to get out their phones and record his response:
“That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School, has no place at [United States Air Force Academy] USAFA, and has no place in the United States Air Force,” Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said. “If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
The racial slurs were written on the dormitory message boards of five black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School, about 12 miles north of Colorado Springs.
The mother of one of the cadet candidates posted a now-deleted photo of one of the messages on Facebook, which read “go home” and the n-word.
She said in her post that she was hurt by the message and decried the lack of unity among the cadet candidates at the school, who were supposed to “bond and protect each other and the country.”
“Who would my son have to watch out for? The enemy or the enemy?” she wrote, according to the Air Force Times.
The cadet’s father, however, had a different message:
“The real victim here is that individual [who wrote the slurs], because that individual is going to lose a promising career in the military,” he told the Air Force Times, who withheld the family members’ names.
“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.”
He said he agreed with how the school is handling the incident, but lamented that it would likely blow up to be something bigger than it was.
The racially-charged messages are particularly poignant in light of the racial tensions that have been surfacing, said Silveria.
He pointed to Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters turned violent and set buildings on fire after a white police officer killed an 18-year-old black man.
He also touched on Charlottesville, Virginia, where a man who appeared to be part of a white supremacist group drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one.
To ignore those incidents and the recent protests in the National Football league, Silveria said, would be “tone deaf,” but he insisted they needed to be dealt with in the right way.
“The appropriate response for horrible language and horrible ideas, the appropriate response is a better idea,“ he said. “What we should have is a civil discourse and talk about these issues.”
“We would all be naive to think that everything is perfect here … naive to think that we shouldn’t discuss this topic.”
The incident is under investigation, Air Force Academy officials said.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that, according to sources inside the academy, the handwriting indicates it was a single person who wrote all the messages.