The head of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Thursday told racists to “get out” of the military school after racial slurs were written outside of five Black cadets’ dorm rooms this week, The Gazette reported.
An investigation was underway after the students woke up Tuesday to find “Go Home” and a racial epithet scrawled on message boards outside their rooms, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria confirmed. He denounced racism in front of 4,000 cadets who stood at attention during a searing speech. About a third of the cadets are minorities, the report said.
“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out,” Silveria said to 1,500 officers, sergeants, athletic coaches and civilian professors, alongside students, who recorded his words using smartphones. “You should be outraged.”
The Air Force Academy was rocked by what appeared to be a single vandal who wrote the racist messages, judging by the handwriting. Silveria called the families of the five cadet candidates on Thursday.
Those responsible for the slurs may face charges for violating orders and conduct “unbecoming of an officer,” as racist slurs are illegal in the military.
But the school has an uphill battle to climb when it comes to dealing with racism. Several controversial events covering a “variety of issues from sexual assault to an on-campus death dealt with behind a veil of secrecy” have happened in recent years, according to The Gazette.
The highest priority is ensuring a climate of “dignity and respect,” Silveria, who took command at the Academy in August, said. He also noted there was a recent school forum on the white supremacist incidents in Charlottesville, USA Today reported.
“If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out,” he said.
Silveria’s message was seemingly effective, with students having relayed his speech through videos and tweets, NPR reported.
The recent incident pointed to the nation’s ever-evolving discussion about racism against Black people, tied to thoughts about confederate flags being removed, NFL players protesting the national anthem and police brutality outrage reaching a fever pitch.