The superintendent of America’s Air Force Academy told hundreds of cadets Thursday to “get out” if they can’t treat other people with “dignity and respect,” following an incident at the Academy’s preparatory school in which racial slurs were found scrawled on dormitory message boards.
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria gathered cadets and staff members to denounce the incident and speak about “the power of diversity,” according to a statement released by the Air Force.
“It’s the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all make-up, all upbringing,” he said. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.”
The superintendent also referenced recent incidents of racial tension across the country, including National Football League protests involving the national anthem.
According to the Air Force release, five black students woke up Tuesday morning and found “go home,” followed by a racial epithet written on the message boards outside their dorm rooms.
Silveria said he was “outraged” and encouraged cadets to pull their phones out and record what he called his most important thoughts on the subject.
“If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said.
The Air Force says it has launched an investigation into the slurs left on the message boards.
While racial slurs are not banned under U.S. law, the military forbids them. Military service members who use racial slurs can face charges of violating orders or conduct unbecoming an officer, which can result in a court-martial.
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