The Citadel, a public military college in South Carolina, has suspended a group of cadets after a photo surfaced of the young men wearing pillowcases over their head resembling Ku Klux Klan hoods.
Photos of seven cadets wearing all-white outfits with white pillowcases that came to a point over their heads and had holes cut out for their eyes were reportedly uploaded to Facebook by a woman who came across the pictures on Snapchat.
“It worried me and I thought more people should know about it, which is why I kind of posted it in the first place,” she told WCIV-TV.
The 19-year-old woman, whose identity was not revealed, told the television station she first spoke to the man who posted the original photos on a dating app, where he said: “I always wanted a black girl.”
School officials are investigating the incident, the college’s president, Lt. General John W. Rosa, said in a statement, noting that they “immediately began suspension proceedings for those cadets known to be involved.”
The photo also included an upperclassman that did not have a pillowcase over his head, Rosa said.
Though preliminary reports found that the cadets were singing Christmas carols as part of a “Ghosts of Christmas Past” skit, Rosa called the social media posting “offensive and disturbing.”
“These images are not consistent with our core values of honor, duty and respect,” he said.
The students’ identities were not revealed.
The Citadel Minority Alumni Association (CMAA) condemned the photos, calling the posting “disgraceful.”
“Regardless of the spin that one may try to assign to this type of behavior, the characterization of what took place was ‘not a mistake’ that can simply be swept under the rug,” CMAA Chairman Dr. Lamont A. Melvin said in a statement.
“We are pleased that Lt. General Rosa and his staff have taken swift action to address the situation and look forward to the results of his investigation; however, much more needs to be done to address the culture that continues to house recurring prejudices against minority cadets,” Melvin said.
He called for increased funding toward cultural competence and diversity training, as well as the establishment of a zero tolerance policy when “racially charged and racially-motivated rhetoric and activity” comes to light.
“This is not the first, second or third time that racially charged events have been documented to have occurred at The Citadel. It is easy to try to isolate events of this sort to a single item or incident, which would, on its face, be a disservice to minority cadets who have and are currently attending The Citadel.
“This issue is much bigger. It’s a cultural issue and it must be addressed and it must end now. When racist acts occur on campus, ALL students, black and white should feel the same degree of outrage that we do. As minority alumni and wearers of the ring, we expect The Citadel to carry out the core values of creating principled leaders…not racist leaders,” the statement said.
School officials said they will provide more information upon completion of the investigation.