Earlier this year a young white man from Little Rock, AR attempted to serve his nation by volunteering to join the United States Marine Corps. Just four months and 1,270 miles later, 16 black female cadets currently enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY pose in broad daylight and in uniform for a group photo. The young man from Arkansas was unceremoniously told to go home after being informed he was unqualified due to a rather smallish tattoo on his upper arm of a Confederate flag with the words “Southern Pride” directly beneath. The 16 female cadets are still enrolled at West Point in spite of every single one of them giving the clenched-fist Black Power salute recently made popular again by the so-called Black Lives Matter group.
As reported by Cristina Silva of the US edition of the International Business Times, and also by Chris Pleasance of Britain’s the Daily Mail, both on May 5, 2016, more than a few eyebrows are raised at America’s premier university that’s tasked with supplying the US Armyquality men and women to lead young soldiers in both war and peace. Yet the blatantly racial and political nature of the Black Power salute rendered by a large group of cadets during daylight hours and on the very steps of the academy’s historic Central Barracks leave the situation with more questions than answers.
The entire situation first gained national prominence when John Burk, a former soldier turned fitness guru who also runs the physical fitness website InTheArena.com. Like most veterans, Burk has friends still on active duty. And as it turns out, Burk has caught wind of the overt membership and support of openly militant and often violent BLM movement on campus. Burk posted on his website of the goings on at the USMA, which in turn led to a number of individuals forwarding the group photo to the Army Times (despite the name, is privately owned and operated with no formal control or operation by the US government).
With the time and place of the photo leaving many openly questioning what the atmosphere at West Point must be like, Burk cites the feedback from his anonymous sources. “The ladies before you are class seniors and have been making their voices heard more and more on an app called ‘Yik Yak’ where users are kept anonymous, yet no one dares speak up in public against them due to them being accused of being racist and risk being expelled from the academy from hurting someone’s feelings.”
As Burk also noted from an anonymous source, “It’s a really touchy subject here. We can get kicked out of West Point, or forced to repeat years for what is called a ‘respect board.’ They can be given for just making someone upset, so no one wants to get kicked out of college and lose their commission over something like this, especially since a white man, in this situation, is already at a disadvantage when a conversation like this starts. It’s purely political.”
The cadets in question very well may have violated Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, which warns: “Members on active duty should not engage in partisan political activity, and … members not on active duty should avoid inferences that their political activities imply or appear to imply official sponsorship, approval or endorsement.”
Verified by West Point’s director of public affairs, Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker, all 16 of the cadets in the photo are enrolled in the Class of 2016. In an official US Army news release, the Class of 2016 will graduate in just a few short weeks – May 21 to be exact. After that date, all graduates will be commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the United States Army.
As noted by IBT’s Silva, “The Black Lives Matter website describes its mission as a ‘chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement.'”