West Point cadets pictured in fist-raising photo did not break any rules, inquiry finds
By Sarah Larimer May 10
A group of black female cadets from West Point who posed for a photograph with their fists raised in the air didn’t break any Army or Department of Defense rules, an inquiry into the matter has determined.
The inquiry found that the picture was “among several taken in the spur-of-the-moment,” the U.S. Military Academy said in a news release Tuesday.
The release continued: “It was intended to demonstrate ‘unity’ and ‘pride,’ according to the findings of the inquiry.”
The photograph showed 16 cadets posing at the U.S. Military Academy, all pictured in cadet dress uniforms and raising their fists. The cadets won’t face any punishment, the release stated.
A letter from Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr., academy superintendent, did note that the cadets would receive some instruction, though.
“As members of the Profession of Arms, we are held to a high standard, where our actions are constantly observed and scrutinized in the public domain,” the letter states. “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.”
In a report last week, Army Times noted that the image had “been shared widely in military circles, with claims the women are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.” As the suggestion arose, however, others said the picture displayed something else entirely.
“It was a sign of unity,” Mary Tobin, a 2003 West Point graduate, told the Associated Press. “They weren’t trying to imply any allegiance to any movement.”
Army Times reported that “several readers” sent the picture to the publication, raising questions about whether the cadets were in violation of a Department of Defense directive about political activities.
Among those who have openly questioned the picture was John Burk, who blogged about it last week in a post headlined “Racism Within West Point.”
“This overt display of the black lives matter movement is not, in itself wrong, but to do so while in uniform is completely unprofessional and not in keeping with what the USMA stands for,” Burk wrote on his site, In the Arena, while also calling it a violation of the directive.
Burk did not reply to an email from The Post earlier this week.
“The fact that it could offend someone by its usage qualifies it as a symbol that goes against Army policies,” Burk told the New York Times.
He added: “It’s not the fact that they are wrong for having their beliefs, it’s the fact they did it while in uniform.”
The inquiry found that there wasn’t any violation of the directive though, and stated: “based upon available evidence none of the participants, through their actions, intended to show support for a political movement.”