West Point Cadets Investigated Over Raised Fist Pose
A photo of sixteen African-American graduates has triggered both outrage and an investigation at the United States Military Academy at West Point. According to ABC News, the women posed for a series of graduation photos in front of historic Nininger Hall. One of the snaps features them posing with raised fists, which some hastily and inaccurately associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Apparently, armed service men and women are not permitted to make political statements while in uniform, and because of the association, the photo is now being investigated.
“There’s a tradition at West Point for seniors where they pose, and they have a very stoic look on their face intended to be a throwback to the old days,” Anthony Lombardo, editor of the Army Times told ABC. “What makes this photo different is everyone is kind of doing the pose but then there is the clenched fist in the air. If these men and women are in uniform, and they’re making a political statement, they could afoul of the Defense Department regulation, and they could be in serious trouble for that.”
The graduates have been both defended and criticized since the images made its rounds on social media. Some have actually gone as far as to call them “unprofessional” and “defiant.” Yes, seriously.
“When I spent time with these cadets and heard them tell their stories and laugh and joke with each other, there’s no doubt in my mind how much they love West Point, they love the Army and they support each other,” said Brenda Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point alumna, former Army captain, and chairwoman of the U.S. Military Academy’s Board of Visitors, in an interview with the Army Times. “I would not have re-tweeted the raised-fist photo because I am well aware that our culture views a Black fist very differently from a White fist,” she continued. “I knew it was their expression of pride and unity, but I am old enough to know that it would be interpreted negatively by many White observers. Unfortunately, in their youth and exuberance, it appears they didn’t stop to think that it might have any political context, or any meaning other than their own feeling of triumph.”
Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker, who is director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Military Academy, told ABC that “Academy officials are conducting an inquiry into the matter.”