Racist messages found at Air Force Academy Preparatory School

Kids that age make stupid decisions. The people who wrote the stuff on the whiteboards could easily have been friends of the victims, and who didn’t realize they were going overboard. When I was in the Air Force, we had pretty much every ethnicity and race represented in the squadron, and everyone cracked jokes that would have been considered extremely racist if you described the situation to someone who wasn’t there. If a white guy said something lewd and racist about blacks, then a black guy would say something lewd and racist about whites. Then everyone would laugh. We all knew each other well enough to understand these were jokes, and nobody was spared.

I’m not saying my interpretation is definitely correct, but I’m not going to jump to a conclusion that the people who wrote the messages on the whiteboards were akin to the KKK. As I mentioned before, we don’t know who did this yet, and you have to keep in mind that sometimes these incidents turn out to be staged by the supposed victims.

No matter what the motivation, whoever did it will get kicked out, not least because the incident made the Air Force Academy look bad.

I’m just wondering if the people who are criticizing my viewpoint ever served in the military, and know firsthand what the social environment there is like? The military isn’t composed of choirboys or chivalrous knights.

Which is it? Are they clueless and didn’t know any better? Or is it that this sort of awful behavior is to be expected because it’s the military?

Apparently the commanders of the Academy don’t find either point of view acceptable. We shouldn’t either.

I’m not familiar with military culture. But I am familiar with being drunk. A drunk person would pee at the door of his dorm mates, indiscriminately regardless of race because the urge strikes and you have very little mental judgement/ physical control. The person(s) who did this wrote a deliberate, pointed message that targeted only the black kids. This takes planning and forethought (he had to know and remember, for example, the locations of the black kids and avoid writing on a white person’s whiteboard by mistake). This requires mental acuity and physical control, carefully timing to avoid detection, that a drunk does not have. The drunk excuse is weak.

Agree it’s not a cross burning. But let’s not call it harmless or dismiss it as bro culture.

I’m surprised that we keep stretching for excuses. Keep in mind, real threats to African Americans is far more likely, statistically speaking, than a staged hoax by the “supposed victims.”

It’s not back-and-forth lewd banter.
And if it had been bro culture, it would still need to be addressed.
But this wasn’t back-and-forth banter, it was deliberate, targeted, and a threat.
(As for the KKK remark… You can be a racist and not belong to the KKK.)
I’m astounded that anyone from our military forces (as simba9 says he is/was)
would make excuses for racists,
or that it isn’t obvious to all that racism isn’t acceptable, for cadets, officers,
or anyone decent and honorable.

But this was the AF academy prep school for candidates who have shown leadership or other qualities that would make them strong applicants for the academy. They would not be your average enlistees. These students are expected to be the chivalrous knights of the AF. And they weren’t just tossing racial insults back and forth in a context where everyone would accept it as a joke. As I understand it, “go home n****r “was written on the room boards of 5 black students. Anonymously. In the dead of night.

In the wake of Charlottesville, the NFL protests, etc., it’s difficult to understand how anyone doing this could think it is funny and would be interpreted as just a joke. What we’ve seen is certain elements feeling emboldened to express their racism.

That’s because you haven’t been in the military. I’m more trying to explain what might be going on, than making excuses. Have you ever been in the locker room of a men’s sports team? Until it’s found out who did it, nobody really knows what the motivation for the messages was. While it looks bad, a message like that on a whiteboard doesn’t convince me that the person who wrote it is genuinely racist.

No it doesn’t. It could easily be a spur of the moment decision. It’s not hard to write on a whiteboard.

If a guy makes a lewd and sexist joke about women, does that mean he hates women and should be viewed as a threat? Does getting drunk once mean you’re an alcoholic. If you tip over a garbage can, does that indicate you’re a hardened criminal?

"If a guy makes a lewd and sexist joke about women, does that mean he hates women and should be viewed as a threat? "

Maybe not a threat but it does make him a sexist, boorish ass and it would move him into the category of undateable in my eyes and the eyes of my daughter and many other women I know.

I have zero tolerance for bad language, slurs, and insults. So, yes, I’ve been in places where people used bad language, and they didn’t do it long. What I expect from leadership is no less than I expect from myself and those I’m with. A coach can shut that down quickly, a platoon commander can shut that down pretty quickly, and you can bet those cadets will remember too.
And, again this is not a joke, back-and-forth banter, slams, etc. This is a threat, and a slur. It takes a very specific person to think writing a threatening slur on someone’s door is fun.
Yes, if someone write “Go kill yourself, c…” on my daughter’s door, I don’t see it as a joke, and yes I see it as a threat, as is the person who did it.
(No one spoke of hardened criminals, and by comparing what happened to getting drunk or tipping over a garbage can, not sure you’re helping us understand how this could be seen as ok in any branch of the armed services.)

@simba9 -Why are you providing excuses for the culprits? It seems pretty clear exactly the message they wanted to get across and it is NOT ok.

I’m not sure when you served but that language and any language against anyone based on race is NOT ok either. Maybe it was “acceptable” before, but it is not now. (However, I am not sure if this is enforced as it should be.)

I’m assuming military culture changes as the decades go by and there is better training and leadership with regard to people who do not fit the white-straight-guy norm.

I’d hope someone who served 10-20-30 years ago would find differences today.

This wasn’t banter, locker room or otherwise. It was targeted to ONLY black cadets and it was a direct command - “go home”. Not just a slur.

It depends on the context. Friends of different races ragging on each other about race or ethnicity is fine, so long as they realize nothing being said is serious. I had a friend in the military, who was Native American, tell me he would, “slap the white off my face.” I don’t remember what the conversation was about, but I remember that particular insult because it was so weird and I couldn’t stop laughing. That’s very typical of the kinds of things you’d hear people say to each other in the military, and it went on all the time. People who think otherwise simply don’t understand how guys in their late teens and early twenties, and who in the the military, talk to each other.

I can easily imagine someone jokingly telling a black friend, “Go home n*****.” and everyone laughing. The problem with an insult on a whiteboard is that you can’t tell if it was a genuine threat or a joke. And I still wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the supposed targets of the insult were the ones who wrote it on the whiteboards. That kind of thing has happened before. People who are absolutely convinced that this was a threat are jumping the gun.

I was in the Air Force in the late 70s-early 80s, but I’m not buying into the idea that what was acceptable to say then isn’t acceptable now. It’s just that people have become absurdly hypersensitive about it.

Friends telling ethnic jokes to each other happens in non-military contexts as well. Although it is often the case that people tell ethnic jokes about their own ethnicity’s stereotypes more than others.

However, most people know that telling such ethnic jokes outside of friends they know well can easily be misinterpreted in a bad way (especially when written where they can be photographed and blasted all over the place on social media), so they do not do that. Also, anonymously-written “go home [ethnic insult]”, particularly with lack of any context, is unlikely to be seen as just a joke.

Somebody needs to educate Lt. Gen. Silveria on how typical and acceptable this is in the military, because apparently he simply doesn’t understand either. Someone should also explain that he’s jumping the gun by assuming this was a threat.


In the absence of information indicating that this was a joke how else should this be treated? Should we tell the cadets “Get over this. You’re being too sensitive.”?

You said you had served in the late 70s. What makes you think what was ok then is ok now? Has the country not changed since then?

Also, what if this is a threat? What do you think should be done then?

Reserve judgement. There was no indication that it wasn’t a joke gone wrong, either. I’m reminded about how people jumped the gun in the Duke lacrosse and Virginia fraternity rape accusations. Last year you had the two girls at SUNY-Albany claim they were assaulted on a bus due to their race, and then it turned out to be false.

Once this became public, he had to say that for public consumption.

What’s changed is that people have become hypersensitive, and everything is over-interpreted to the extreme. Kids get suspended from school for pointing their hand like it’s a gun. I hate using the term “snowflake”, but that’s what lots of people have become.

What you call hypersensitivity I call progress.

I for one am glad that we as a country do not tolerate this kind of behavior.

For the record, even in the 70s the n- word was totally unacceptable, and for many people well before that.

Given the history of the military (not singling out a branch) and AA’s, its entirely possible that they never enjoyed the bantering, but did not feel empowered to act on it. While I’m sure there are/were one or two AA’s who were comfortable allowing other people to call them whatever (if we are using the it’s fun banter between friends excuse), I would never assume all were. I’d be inclined to believe most weren’t, but again did not feel they were in a position to say anything. Personal experience from AA family members who served in the military in the 60’s and 70’s (including Air Force) is quite different from what you are saying. They do not describe a racially harmonious environment with funny jokes. I am glad that in 2017, there are things that will not be tolerated.

For the record, I agree we should wait to see who did it and the intent. However, I’m not willing to ever be an apologist for this type of behavior. It is dangerous and divisive… it is most certainly not a prank.

I’m one who thinks that being drunk tends to reveals your true self. I don’t know anyone who would do this drunk or sober.

I get that in the context of bantering people may push boundaries, but IMO this is different. And the only way to stop it is to nip it in the bud.

A LOT has changed since the 1970s in the military. What a weird idea, that nothing would change in nearly 50 years.

There are a ton more female service members in it. There are openly gay service members in it. There are transgender service members in it.

Most relevant to this incident, there are far more not-white people, that number has grown since the draft ended and the military went all-volunteer.

Further, this academy is grooming cadets to enter officer training - leaders - not enlisted soldiers who can likely get away with more “jokes”.