Five Black cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Preparatory School found racial slurs on their dorm message boards earlier this week. But the academy’s superintendent was not about to let the incident go without a stern message to every single cadet.
“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said, according to the academy. “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.”
Speaking to the academy’s cadets, staff, and faculty in Colorado Springs, Silveria called for a “civil discourse” about race in America, citing Charlottesville and protests within the NFL as major events. He also praised diversity in the Air Force Academy, saying that it “makes us that much more powerful.”
“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,” Silveria explained. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.”
Silveria’s speech also came with a strong warning for cadets: “If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
In the meantime, Security Forces are investigating the incident that sparked the speech. In an email sent out by Silveria, he insisted that respect and dignity are “not negotiable,” which he calls “central to our culture” at the academy.
“I want cadets to see that we take a united stand on the importance of respect and dignity as part of our Air Force way of life, and that we—espousing a diverse variety of backgrounds, expertise, and viewpoints—are stronger together,” he said.
Diversity and inclusion have remained an ongoing issue within the U.S. military at large. Even before President Donald Trump’s tweeted ban on transgender troops, a trans cadet from the Air Force Academy wasn’t allowed to serve because policies weren’t implemented for enlisting trans members. While respect and dignity may be valued at the Air Force Academy, the commander-in-chief’s opinions speak toward a different direction.