5/9/16 MIKEY’s DAILY KOS OP-ED – West Point Black Female Cadets Battle Hypocrisy, Racism

Army Strong; Air Force Weak

Published on Daily Kos, Monday, May 9, 2016

west-point-cadets

Their story is now viral. Their picture of pride and accomplishment is under attack. That photo is being used, by those both ignorant and hypocritical, to vilify and condemn them. Sixteen female black members of the graduating Class of 2016 at West Point deserve far better treatment than what they are being forced to endure.  Without belaboring the specifics of this raging “controversy”, I asked two Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) supporters to offer their thoughts on this matter and am pleased to provide them below for your review.

Please keep in mind that the DoD and Army regulations, in the main, lump political, ideological and religious expression/limitation matters together. I tell you this because of the outrage today from MRFF’s many faculty, staff and cadet (including cadet football players) clients at my alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). They are incensed at the disparate treatment of the black female cadets’ expression of solidarity/achievement at West Point as compared to the TOTAL lack of any similar scrutiny and/or criticism levied upon the heavily publicized and orchestrated public, pregame prayers of USAFA football players expressing their personal religious preferences last December, 2015.

The hideous stench of hypocrisy cannot be denied.

 

From: Senior Active Duty Air Force Officer
Subject: Army Strong, Air Force Weak
Date: May 9, 2016 at 3:27:57 PM MDT
To: “Weinstein, Mikey”

Dear MRFF,

I understand that 18 female Firsties (senior cadets) at the US Military Academy are under some level of scrutiny–in fact an investigation is underway according to the New York Times–because some think they may have been violating well-established rules against making political statements in uniform. This all came about after their personally taken “Old Corps” group photo became public via social media. the photo, as you are well aware, showed them around West Point’s oldest barracks in a scene reminiscent of the 1800s, in dress grays, but with each of them raising one fist. The fists aren’t raised in any uniform pose whatsoever. Some are high, some low, some look a bit half-hearted, other more strident, at least three are left-handed. A retired Army Full Colonel (O-6) (former Blackhawk pilot, black, and female) posted it on her Facebook page with pride and it also showed up on two Facebook pages run by parents of USAF Academy parents–all of the posts had comments that were nothing but supportive. I, myself, “liked” the photo, and then scrolled on. I felt their pride in accomplishment, and took it as a message of strength, sisterhood, camaraderie–eighteen women who have all overcome and flourished in an environment that we’d all call among the most challenging possible for a college-aged student. It never crossed my mind that they were making any political or religious statement of any kind, nor that they were identifying with any political group or movement. (I am, however, one-each European, middle-class, white, suburban male–so, if they were making a statement that was political or religious, it’s entirely possible that I could miss the clues.)

So, I guess what bothers me, is the contrast between what looks like a gross over-reaction to a very ambiguous, seemingly innocuous (and privately taken) group photo at USMA, and the extreme UNDER-reaction by the US Air Force Academy several months ago with the overwhelming majority of the Air Force football team trotting out of the locker room and almost in unison running to the end zone where they formed circles and all took a “Tebow” to pray in a distinctly Christian manner. This included, if reports are to be believed, many members of the football team who felt pressure to ape their religious teammates for fear of being “outed” as non-religious and not “part of the team.” The MRFF covered this, broke the story–based upon complaints by cadets on the team and fans in the stands–and USAFA claimed to do an “inquiry,” but nothing to the extent of what now may take place at USMA.

The football incident seems (to me at least) to be the far more egregious situation. Players declared their faith en masse, in uniform, to a nationally televised audience a half-dozen times (at least) over the course of the season, yet nothing was done. Would the same have been true if 90% of them had lined up on the goal line and raised their right arm, fingers rigidly pointing, palms down in a Nazi salute? What if they’d all rolled out prayer rugs and bowed East toward Mecca–or refused, for one game, to practice Buddhist non-violence and play touch football? Could they sport Hillary or Bernie stickers on their helmets?

The fact is, the USAFA cadets were allowed–if not encouraged–to publicly display their religious convictions BECAUSE they are the majority. When ire was raised, it was dismissed out of hand–it’s their religious RIGHT to do so say their similarly oriented superiors. What a contrast to our USMA sisters who, in trying to capture a private moment of pride and accomplishment, have every possible motive examined under the microscope, all possible negative inferences and worst suspicions suddenly confirmed because they are the minority and have been so since the day they in-processed. No wonder their fists are raised. I guess I didn’t appreciate all for which they’ve fought until I compared these two cases. Bravo ladies! I will be proud to serve with you.

A Senior Active Duty Air Force Officer

 

The following thoughts are from a female West Point graduate who is a long time MRFF staff volunteer, supporter, and subject matter expert

 

Hi Mikey

Here are my thoughts–and I did personally speak to two of the West Point (Class of 2016) African American women cadets and they say that the raised fist was mean for personal strength, not political. Every year since 1980 African American women gather for a photo. Also learned they do not know who sent the photo out, but it was not meant for public distribution. Social media adds a new level of personal responsibility, yet how can one control the way everything is interpreted?

As a former outreach officer, I am amazed that 18 African American women are graduating. Wonder how many classes they endured being the only woman? The only black person? Being different is the norm for them. How many African American women are on staff and faculty? Usually, for the African American community, the church is a strong supportive community. Is there a black chaplain assigned to West Point? I am guessing not, because if there were, this issue would never have escalated to this point.

If this were a picture of white women cadets, then possibly the raised fist would bring thoughts of “Rosie the Riveter.” A group of male cadets, possibly the idea of “Army Strong.” Anytime a minority gathers together, prejudice lurks close behind. If the minority women cadets meant for the raised fist to be a symbol of Black Power, then did they post the picture making that political statement? Or was the photo, as in all the other years African American women gathered together in solidarity memorialized their journey with a picture, meant for personal keepsake? Interestingly, if one follows the eyes of the women, they see raising in the distance the new barracks named after shunned cadet Benjamin Davis. What would have happened had that shadow of prejudice prevented his graduation? Thankfully, he endured.

While the easier choice now is to delay graduation pending an investigation, the harder right is to stand up against illogical thinking founded on racial fear. What support community rallies to these women? The same support community that helped GEN Davis endure? These 18 African American women are each other’s support. All they have overcome, and to scrutinize based on a photo which can be interpreted in many ways. Has the United States Military Academy, the supposed premier leadership institute in the world, allowed itself to be on the end of a political string that dances to the tune of ignorance fueled by prejudice? May the shadow of the new barracks cast its mighty light into the minds of decision makers.


“The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that’s also a hypocrite!”
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) American playwright.

 


 

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16 Comments

  1. Rev Bob

    They should be kicked out of the academy or severely disciplined for making a racial statement, it is the same thing the black US Olympic athletes did in Mexico in the 60’s.

    What if white cadets raised their lilly white fists into the air in a picture, I hope they would be ostracized as well for their white pride or if they all were holding Confederate flags in the photo while in uniform??

    If it is okay for a black cadet to throw their fist up in the air, then a Christian at any academy can raise their one finger indicating One Way Jesus while scoring a touchdown or hitting a home run.

  2. RoseLotus

    As a USAFA ’76 Grad (and active MRFF supporter), I 100% agree with both of the MRFF insights above.

    As for “Rev Bob’, not so much, although I respect his personal opinion as long as it’s NOT running our government OR military.

    I totally missed the ‘Falcon Prayer’ hypocrisy in favor of the other hypocrisy of NO action taken concerning LtGen Jerry Boykin preaching in uniform.

    “Finger to Heaven’? – Be my guest, devout Christians.

    As a bad ol’ ex-catholic boy, non-exclusive TransChristian heretic going’ to Hell, it probably would be my middle finger to the OldAbrahamicFart.

    YahwehGawdAllah Akbar!

    To the Proud USMA ’18’. You Go Ladies !!! Congrats on your accomplishments !!

    Blessings. HereTicVic

  3. Mark Gray

    I see no angry defiance in any of their gestures. I see solidarity and pride, and some tentative expressions. Carry on, soon-to-be Lieutenants! Well Done!

  4. Rev Bob

    Would it be any worse if white cadets were giving the Nazi salute while in uniform? If white cadets gave the Nazi salute while in uniform I would call for them to be either disciplined or kicked out as well!

  5. Marshalldoc

    Got to love the ‘Rev Bob’ mentality… anything that threatens white Christian male patriarchy is inherently evil and must be equated with the worst of humanity’s many failings. Yeah, Bob, it would be worse than ‘white cadets… giving the Nazi salute’ [see white U.S. soldiers posing with Nazi regalia & celebrating values that 900K Americans and 50 million people worldwide died to eradicate here:
    https://brightcove.vo.llnwd.net/e1/pd/77374810001/77374810001_1445323951001_ari-origin06-arc-127-1328895515614.jpg?pubId=77374810001%5D. What ‘Rev Bob’ understands but refuses to acknowledge is that these women are demonstrating their personal victories over the ‘Johnny Reb Bob’ mentality for which Americans fought the most costly war in our history, and which we continue to fight as symbols of the slave-owner rebellion continue to be exhibited across the country while the remnants of that rebellion continue to seek the reestablishment of its perverse values. That’s why ‘Rev Bob’ is so threatened by this photo. A political issue? ‘Black Lives Matter’ & black empowerment ceased to be a political issue following the Emancipation Proclamation & passage of the 14th Amendment… exactly what is the ‘political’ statement made by a group of empowered black women demonstrating solidarity & pride? The real issue here is assuaging the wounded egos of the dying white supremacist, Christian male patriarchy that still maintains inordinate influence over our nation. And, just to emphasize Reb Bob’s double standard did he write in to express his outrage over the un-Constitutional ‘Establishment’ represented by this event [http://cdn.cnsnews.com/air-force-football-players-kneel-before-game.jpg]? I doubt it, after all, it’s not ‘political’ if it endorses his worldview. More likely, he was vocal in defending these dweeb’s ‘religious freedom’. There is a battle for the secular democracy our founders fled the Christian theocracies of old Europe to create (especially having seen the disastrous outcomes of the Christian theocracies those very refugees established in the New World) that we dare not lose lest we descend into that horror again. Those who fail to learn from history…

  6. rhbartle

    Okay Rev Bob, take a deep breath.
    There is quite a difference between the very public display and statement expressed at the 1968 Olympics and a picture taken in a private setting of a bunch on young adults expressing solidarity.
    And a huge difference in the very public display of christian prayer by the USAFA football team. If they had chosen to pray in the locker room, in private; it would be treated the same as what these women have done.
    Context is everything.
    And now, looking back on the 1968 display, almost 50 years ago, it’s frightening how little attitudes have changed. Racism is alive and well in America!

  7. G

    Rev Bob, the Nazis salute was actually invented in America called the Bellamy salute in 1892.

  8. G

    If I recalled correctly The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, for a long time, were singing the song Dixie at their games plus waving the Confederate flag and it took a long time before it finally got ban.

  9. KAY CAREY

    Of course these women are solemn & serious. After 4 long years of overt & covert activities deliberately designed to attrition them, they survived & passed their tests with flying colors…
    When the cadets toss their hats at the actual graduation, that’s when the smiles come out!!

  10. Christopher Blackwell

    Strange I have seen white male Navel cadets used the same raised fists on graduation pictures and no one is bothered by that. What is the difference when done by Black female cadets.

    Sorry but your bigotry against both women and blacks has been noted. As I said the same us used by white male cadets,so what is the difference?

    Considering the racial ugliness that was going on in the United States, there was nothing wrong with Black athletes raising fists. Who are we fooling, the Olympics has always been a political statement, why do you think so much money is funneled to the athletes by governments of the countries taking part. The only amateurs were from third world countries to poor to pay their athletes to train.

  11. Tom O

    West Point clears black cadets over raised-fists photo
    http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/10/us/west-point-cadets-photo/index.html

  12. NORM R. ALLEN JR.

    Thanks to Mikey and the two thoughtful contributors for a somewhat unique response to this manufactured “controversy.”

  13. Rev Bob

    I am waiting for the photo of white female cadets holding the Confederate flag and see if anything happens to them!

  14. Connie

    Are we sure Rev Bob
    Is real and not some hate filled
    Spam bot trolling us?

  15. Mattydubs

    Here’s my point of view on this. These are 16 young powerful black women showing strength and solidarity. In one innocuous photo they used to what is my understanding the “black power” symbol. F’n A they should be powerful. Taxpayers didn’t just spend an unbelievable amount of money to make them meek. They are powerful and they are black. That’s what some people are afraid of. Thankfully the military didn’t find them culpable of any wrongdoing. Stop freaking out White America. I’m the liliest of white by the way…

  16. rex smith

    No white people in this photo,so the military is segregated now? Or is it just a black thing going on here? If they truly had pride they would have saluted as they were taught… I see no Pride at all just an insult to White America !!!

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