WEST POINT – The United States Military Academy at West Point is investigating a photo that shows 16 African American female cadets in uniform displaying raised fists outside a U.S. Military Academy barracks.
Academy officials have stated that they are conducting an inquiry into the matter. It’s unclear how long the inquiry will take and what consequences may await, as the cadets are scheduled to graduate on May 21.
Many of the details are unknown about the photo, the image has been circulated widely in military circles and via social media, some claiming the women are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
It is common that groups of cadets take pictures in their dress uniforms to echo historical portraits of their cadets. A similar picture of the same women, without the raised fists, was tweeted out by the chairwoman of the academy’s Board of Visitors, 1980 graduate Brenda Sue Fulton.
It is however, the fists-up image that has raised concern. That symbol has been used for centuries to symbolize resistance by a number of groups, from the Black Panthers, labor unions to suffragists.
On a campus where about 70 percent of students are white and 80 percent are men, African American female cadets are still very rare. Perhaps that’s why this photo is getting so much attention.
Late Tuesday evening the
U.S. Military Academy announced that no punitive action will be
taken and the cadets did not violate Department
of Defense or Army regulations.
inquiry concluded that the photo was among several taken in the
spur-of-the-moment. It was intended to demonstrate “unity” and “pride,”
according to the findings of the inquiry.
to concluding there was no violation of DOD Directive 1344.10, the
findings state, “that based upon available evidence none of the
participants, through their actions, intended to show support for
a political movement.”
of the Profession of Arms, we are held to a high standard, where our
actions are constantly observed and scrutinized in the public domain,”
said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr., academy superintendent,
letter. “We all must understand that a symbol or gesture that one group of people may find harmless
may offend others. As Army officers, we are not afforded the luxury of
a lack of awareness of how we are perceived.”