Racial Slurs Were Written On Black Cadets' Doors. So He Called A Meeting.

"Reach for your phones."

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria had a clear message for his Air Force cadets: if you don't value tolerance and diversity, then this isn't the place for you.

The superintendent of the Air Force Academy stood all 4,000 of his cadets at attention on Thursday to discuss an incident at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School earlier in the week. As reported by The Washington Post, someone scrawled racial slurs on the whiteboards outside the doors of five black cadets, telling them to "go home."

"If you're outraged by those words, then you're in the right place," Lt. Gen. Silveria said. "That kind of behavior has no place at the prep school, it has no place at USAFA and it has no place in the United States Air Force."

As seen in a video posted by the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Gen. Silveria told the cadets that the appropriate response for horrible language and horrible ideas is "a better idea." He then called forward the entire staff at the Air Force Academy — pointing out members of the faculty, staff, leadership from the Air Force, coaches from the sports teams, fighters from the airfield and different divisions of the academy. He implored the cadets not to dismiss what had happened because it was at the prep school and not at the academy. 

"We would be naive to think that everything is perfect here," he said. "We would also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what's going on in our country — things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protests in the NFL."

But the "better idea" Lt. Gen. Silveria had was their power when they are together.

"It's the power of the diversity, the power of the 4,000 of you and all the people on the staff tower and lining the glass, the power of us as a diverse group," Lt. Gen. Silveria said. "The power that we come from all walks of life, from all parts of this country, from all races, from all backgrounds, from all gender, all makeup, all upbringing; the power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. That's a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Academy told The Washington Post that security forces are looking into the incident. Parents of one of the victims expressed disappointment to the Air Force Times,but said they believed the real victim was the student who wrote the slur because their military career is in jeopardy and they "were raised with that kind of vitriol and that kind of hate."

At the end of his speech, Lt. Gen. Silveria told everyone to reach for their phones.

"Reach for your phones," he said. "I'm serious: Reach for your phones. ... Grab your phones. I want you to videotape this — so that you have it, so that you can use it, so that we all have the moral courage together. If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out." 

He then turned around and left the room.

Correction: This article's headline originally referred to Silveria by the wrong rank. He is a Lieutenant General.


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