Democracy Dies in Darkness

Grade Point

Racial slurs written on doors of five black cadet candidates at Air Force Academy Preparatory School

By Susan Svrluga

September 28, 2017 at 7:20 PM

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Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, spoke to cadets and cadet candidates on Sept. 28 after racial slurs were written on the dormitory message boards of five black cadets at the academy’s preparatory school. (USAFAOfficial/YouTube)

Five black cadet candidates found racial slurs written on the message boards on their doors at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School this week, leading school officials to denounce racism and launch an investigation.

Security forces are looking into the matter, according to Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

"This has come out of nowhere," he said. "We haven't seen anything like this in recent times."

The Air Force Times reported that a cadet candidate's mother posted a photo on social media of "the words 'go home n*****r' written on the white board outside her son's room."

The Air Force Times did not report the names of the cadet candidate or his parents to protect their privacy but quoted the mother as saying in her post, which has since been taken down, "This is why I'm so hurt!

"These young people are supposed to bond and protect each other and the country. Who would my son have to watch out for? The enemy or the enemy?"

The father told the Air Force Times: "The word has zero power in my house. Zero power. The word is not going to yield a reaction. My initial advice to him was, respond with intelligence, do not react, do not get upset. You don't have to defend intelligence, you don't have to defend common sense, you don't have to defend confidence. He's fine."

He told the Air Force Times he doesn't view his son as the victim but rather the victim is the person who wrote the slurs, because that person will probably go home disgraced and lose out on a promising military career, and "because they were raised with that kind of vitriol and that kind of hate."

The preparatory school is designed for candidates who have shown leadership or other qualities that would make them strong applicants for the academy but who need to shore up their academic work before becoming cadets, Herritage said.

"There is absolutely no place in our Air Force for racism — it's not who we are, nor will we tolerate it in any shape or fashion," said Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, saying the school strives to create a climate of dignity and respect for all. "Period. Those who don't understand that are behind the power curve and better catch up."

"I've said it before, the area of dignity and respect is my red line. Let me be clear; it won't be crossed without significant repercussions."

Diversity is an asset of both the academy and the Air Force, he said. "We are stronger when we take into account the views of those with different backgrounds and life experiences."

On Thursday, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) issued a statement saying racism has no place in this country or its armed forces. "This hateful act stands contrary to everything that makes us strong as a nation. We are glad Academy leadership has made clear this will not be tolerated, and we're grateful for the example set by their response."


Susan Svrluga is a reporter for the Washington Post, covering higher education for the Grade Point blog.

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