The head of the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado on Thursday delivered a stern rebuke after racial slurs were found written on message boards at its preparatory school.
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria addressed cadets, faculty, staff and cadet candidates that evening after the insults directed at five of the academy’s African American students were discovered Monday.
“If you’re outraged by these words, then you’re in the right place,” he said at the academy’s Mitchell Hall.
“This 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,” Silveria continued.
“If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”
Silveria told listeners to record his remarks on their smart phones, and he also called for a respectable, open discussion of sensitive topics like race.
“What we should have is a civil discourse and talk about these issues,” he said. “That’s a better idea.”
Some Twitter users on Friday praised Silveria for taking an uncompromising stand against racism at his institution.
The Gazette on Friday reported that five black students at the academy woke early Tuesday to find the words “Go Home” written on the message board outside their rooms.
The remarks were followed by a racial epithet, and they also prompted the academy to begin investigating the incident.
Sources at the academy told The Gazette that there was apparently a single vandal involved, judging by the handwriting.
“Security Forces are looking into the matter,” Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in an email. “We’re unable to release any additional information at this time due to the ongoing investigation.”
Silveria took command of the academy last August, and he said at the time that violating its climate of “dignity and respect” is a “red line” he will not allow to be crossed.
The military strictly prohibits racial slurs, and their use is the kind of conduct that can ultimately result in a court-martial.
The culprit or culprits behind the message at the academy earlier this week could face charges of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.