AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (CBS) — Social media was abuzz Friday with reaction to Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria’s speech telling those within the academy who may be racists to “get out.”
“There is absolutely no place in our Air Force for racism,” said the Air Force Academy superintendent Thursday in response to racial slurs written on five black cadet candidates’ dorm message boards.
He addressed the issue in a speech to cadets at lunch Thursday afternoon.
“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place. That kind of behavior has no place at the prep school, has no place at USAFA, and no place in the United States Air Force,” Silveria said in his passionate speech to cadets.
The victims all attend the Air Force Academy Preparatory School, a 10-month program that gives some prospective cadets a little more preparation before being accepted to the AFA. Most who graduate from the prep school do go on to attend the academy.
The academy says it is investigating the incident.
“You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being,” he said.
He went on.
“The appropriate response to horrible language and horrible ideas is a better idea. … Some of you may think that happened down in the prep school and doesn’t apply to us. I would be naïve and we would all be naive to think things are perfect here [at the Air Force Academy].
We would naive to think that we shouldn’t discuss this topic. We would also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country. Things like Charlottesville, in Ferguson, the protests in the NFL. That’s why we have a better idea. … What we should have is a civil discourse and talk about these issues.
“We come from all walks of life. We come from all parts of this country. We come from all races. We come from all backgrounds, gender, all makeup, all upbringings. The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.
“We have an opportunity here, 5,500 people in this room, to think about what we are as an institution. This is our institution and no one can take away our values. … So just in case you’re unclear on where I stand on this topic, I’m going to leave you with my most important thought today.
“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, you need to get off. If you can’t treat someone of the other gender, whether that is a man or a woman, with respect, you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”