A slew of racial slurs recently directed at African-American Air Force Academy Cadets forced the school's superintendent to remind the class that the Air Force has zero tolerance for racism, and video of his fiery speech Thursday quickly went viral.
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria spoke passionately about that "horrible language and horrible ideas" to his cadets in Colorado after the slurs were posted on dormitory message boards at the academy's Preparatory School.
“If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” Silveria said. "If you demean someone in anyway, then you need to get out."
The incidents come in the wake of recent protests in the National Football League after President Donald Trump said that team owners should fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem, describing anyone who didn't stand as a "son of a bitch." Dozens of players kneeled in the wake of that comment, which the president continued to tweet about for days.
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Silveria's speech mentioned those protests, as well as the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and unrest over the police killing of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri.
He said that those events form the backdrop against which the writing of the slurs should be judged, and argued that the group at the academy is more powerful because of their diversity. That is part of the school's values, he said, flanked by the school's faculty, and they are unquestionable.
“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” Silveria said. “That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School, has no place at USAFA and has no place in the United States Air Force.”
Video of Silveria's speech, posted to YouTube by the Colorado Springs NBC affiliate, was seen nearly 200,000 times by Friday morning. A tweet from the Air Force was liked more than 15,000 times and retweeted more than 8,000 times.
Air Force Academy security forces are currently investigating the incident. The school was unable to release additional information because the investigation is ongoing, an academy spokesman said.