This week, the Air Force Times reported that racial slurs (including “go home n*****r”) against five black cadets were discovered after being scrawled outside their dorm rooms at the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs. On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria assembled academy leadership, and — as Colorado Springs’ Gazette paper reports — the academy’s 4,000 cadets before unleashing a fiery, 5-minute lecture to all. Silveria’s message, in no unsubtle terms, was that this behavior would not be allowed to stand.
“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place. You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being … If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
Silveria also told his audience that it would be “tone deaf” to ignore these slurs, especially “the backdrop of what’s going on in our country.” He explains that he brought everyone together to “talk about these issues” rather than let them go ignored. And Silveria dropped a particularly significant message toward the end of his lecture. Here’s what he instructed cadets to do if they ever witnessed such behavior again:
“Reach for your phones. 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.”
As Axios points out, this portion of the rant could reference a recent camera-phone video captured while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told troops, “Hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other.” Given that Silveria gathered 1,500 members of Air Force leadership to surround the cadets while they listened, the message couldn’t be clearer.