The head of the Air Force Academy is condemning racism after five black cadets on the campus found a hateful message, followed by the N-word, scrawled on their dormitory message board earlier this week.
“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said Thursday in a five-minute address to the academy’s 4,000 cadets and 1,500 staff members. “That kind of behavior has no place in the Prep School, it has no place at USAFA and it has no place in the United States Air Force. You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being.”
This comes after a photo of the message board with the words “go home n*****” was shared on Facebook Monday by the mother of one of the students.
The message board hangs in the dorm of five black cadets at Air Force Academy’s Preparatory School in Colorado, home to a 10-month program to help 240 cadet candidates yearly enter the academy.
“Some of you may think that what happened [was] down at the prep school and doesn’t apply to us,” the superintendent said, encouraging cadets and staffers to take out their phones to record his speech. “I would be naïve, and we would all be naïve, to think that everything is perfect here.”
He added that it would be “tone deaf” not to mention the August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in connection to the slurs, saying that sort of behavior also had no place in the Air Force.
“If you can’t treat someone from another gender with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another race, or different color skin, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
Silveria also mentioned NFL players kneeling during the national anthem and protests in Ferguson, Mo., where black teen Michael Brown was shot by a white cop in 2014.
“We can’t pretend that doesn’t impact us,” he said.
Silveria graduated from the academy himself in 1985 and returned to become the superintendent this year.
Authorities told local sources they are continuing to investigate the incident and they are not able to release any further information on the suspects.