The pageantry and patriotism that embodies that annual Army/Navy game has been hijacked. And there’s no telling when the purity of the rivalry will ever return.
The U.S. Military Academy and the Naval Academy are investigating the actions of some cadets and midshipmen after a few of them were boldly flashing the “white power” hand gesture behind ESPN’s Rece Davis during the network’s telecast last Saturday in Philadelphia.
At the #ArmyNavy game today, several West Point students flashed the white power sign on live tv.. They did this because they fully understand that most people in the dominant society share their views, and there will be no serious punishment against them. pic.twitter.com/IBQEcqkTVM
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) December 15, 2019
The future servicemen who are on their way to protect and fight for the freedoms this country supposedly stands on, were on national television laughing and purposefully spreading hatred and white nationalism.
It was a level of boldness and arrogance that only resembles that of their Commander-in-chief. In the middle of an impeachment process, the president was cheered at the game to shouts of “Trump!” and “Let’s go Trump!”
Recently, the Anti-Defamation League added the hand gesture to its database of hate symbols, as it often resembles a downward or horizontal version of the “OK” symbol.
“Based on findings of the investigation, those involved will be held appropriately accountable,” Cmdr. Alana Garas of the Naval Academy told The Associated Press.
“The United States Military Academy is fully committed to developing leaders of character who embody the Army values,” said Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, the superintendent at West Point, who will choose an officer to investigate the incident.
I find it hard to believe that these men will receive any harsh punishment, given who our president is and how he was greeted at the game in which the incident took place.
But even when you take the racism and white nationalism out of the picture, Trump used last Saturday’s game as the perfect place to score some points and take credit for something he didn’t even do. Previously, the Obama Administration had already laid the groundwork for servicemen and women that played sports by putting together a policy that would let some of them defer their military service if they made the pros.
Trump has taken credit for the idea, and has conveniently forgotten to mention the Obama Administration, by signing a memo that orders the Pentagon to allow student-athletes at military academies to turn pro immediately after graduating. Back in 2017, Trump’s Defense Department rescinded the original Obama policy that would have done something similar.
These are examples of why I’m skeptical that any real punishment will take place. But, most of my skepticism stems from a situation that occurred a few years ago.
Back in 2016, West Point opened an investigation after 16 black female cadets that were set to graduate raised their fist in a group photo while wearing their traditional gray dress uniforms on the steps of West Point’s oldest barracks.
For those asking “what if,” there was no disciplinary action taken in 2016 when West Point cadets flashed a black power symbol. https://t.co/0XmEdaHyiR
— AshleeLee (@MsAshleeLee) December 16, 2019
Critics immediately thought it had something to do with Black Lives Matter, ignoring the fact that by May of 2016 those 16 women had already faced everything that came along with Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Ferguson.
Relief vs. Racism
According to a report, in 2015 young black men were nine times more likely than other group in American to be killed by police, as 1,134 people were killed by the hands of law enforcement officers that year.
Raising their fist in solidarity wasn’t a violation of the Army’s rules that prohibit political activities while in uniform. It was a group of black women showing the world that despite all they endured, they made it.
Ultimately, West Point ruled that the women didn’t break any rules as the picture was referred to as “among several taken in the spur-of-the-moment,” and “was intended to demonstrate ‘unity’ and ‘pride,’ according to the findings of the inquiry.”
In May, 34 black women graduated from West Point, as it was a new record. History tends to happen when institutions don’t deny black people their humanity.
Three years ago, West Point did the right thing by not punishing those 16 black women. But in 2019, under the Trump regime, I fear that West Point and the Naval Academy will let the cadets and midshipmen that brought shame and disgrace to our armed forces get off scot-free.
The raised fist has never been a symbol of hate. While the “white power” symbol oozes racism, bigotry, and supremacy.
Earlier this year, Brenton Tarrant was charged with killing 51 people at mosques in New Zealand. At a court date, he was seen flashing the same symbol some of the cadets and midshipmen did on national TV last Saturday.
Our military academies are about to tell on themselves. Because by the end of this investigation, we’ll all have a true assessment of who those leaders truly are.