A black student wrote those racist messages that shook the Air Force Academy, school says
November 8 at 6:11 AM Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, spoke to cadets and cadet candidates on Sept. 28 after racial slurs were written on the dormitory message boards of five black cadets at the academy's preparatory school. (USAFAOfficial/YouTube)
In late September, five black cadet candidates found racial slurs scrawled on message boards on their doors at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School. One candidate found the words âgo home nâ'â'â'â'â'â'â written outside his room, his mother posted on social media, according to the Air Force Times.
The racist messages roiled the academy in Colorado Springs and prompted the school to launch an investigation. They led its superintendent to deliver a stern speech that decried the âhorrible languageâ and drew national attention for its eloquence.< /p>
Surrounded by 1,500 members of the schoolâs staff, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria told cadets to take out their phones and videotape the speech, âso you can use it .â.â. so that we all have the moral courage together.â
âIf you canât treat someone with dignity and respect,â Silveria said, âthen get out.â
The speech, which the academy posted on YouTube, went viral. It was watched nearly 1.2 million times, grabbed headlines nationwide, and was commended by former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
But on Tuesday, the school made a jolting announcement. The person responsible for the racist messages, the academy said, was, in fact, one of the cadet candidates who reported being targeted by them.
âThe individual admitted responsibility and this was validated by the investigation,â academy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in a statement to the Associated Press, adding: âRacism has no place at the academy, in any shape or form.â
The cadet candidate accused of crafting the messages was not identified, but the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the individual is no longer enrolled at the school. Sources also told the Gazette the cadet candidate âcommitted the act in a bizarre bid to get out of trouble he faced at the school for other misconduct,â the newspaper reported.
The announcement thrust the Air Force Academy Preparatory School onto a growing list of recent âhate crime hoaxesâ â" instances in which acts of racism or anti-Semitism were later found to be committed by someone in the targeted minority group.
On Monday, police in Riley County, Kansas, revealed that a 21-year-old black man, Dauntarius Williams, admitted to defacing his car with racist graffiti as a âHalloween prank that got out of hand.â Scrawled in washable paint were racist messages telling blacks to âGo Home,â âDate your own kind,â and âDie.â The incident provoked cont roversy and concern at nearby Kansas State University, especially after Williams spoke with the Kansas City Star, claiming to be a black student who was leaving the school because of the incident. He was not, in fact, a student.
Officials decided not to file criminal charges against Williams for filing a false report, saying it âwould not be in the best interestsâ of citizens of the Manhattan, Kan., community, police said in a news release. They said Williams was âgenuinely remorsefulâ for his actions and published an apology on his behalf.
âThe whole situation got out of hand when it shouldnât have even started,â Williams said in the statement. âI wish I could go back to that night but I canât. I just want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for the pain and news I have brought you all.â
When reports circulated last week about the racial slurs on the car, African American students at the nearby Kansas State University campus held a meet ing to talk about the incident.
Andrew Hammond, a journalism student at Kansas State, told the Kansas City Star Monday he was âoutraged and hurtâ to learn the crime was fake.
âAs a black student who has witnessed racist incidents first-hand around Manhattan this hurts the credibility of students who actually want to step out and say something about it,â Hammond said. âIâm not sure what type of human being does this kind of thing as a prank.â
About three weeks earlier, police announced that a 29-year-old black man, a former student named Eddie Curlin, had been charged in connection with three racist graffiti incidents at Eastern Michigan University: âKKKâ sprayed on a dorm wall, messages ordering blacks to leave scrawled on a building, and a racist message left in a menâs restroom stall.
Itâs unclear exactly what prompts people to commit these hoaxes, stunts and false reports. But such revelations have become a major concern for civil rights activists who document racist and anti-Semitic incidents, particularly amid a rise in reported hate crimes since the 2016 general election.
âThere arenât many people claiming fake hate crimes, but when they do, they make massive headlines,â Ryan Lenz, senior investigative writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project, told ProPublica. All it takes is one false report, Lenz said, âto undermine the legitimacy of other hate crimes.â
These reports have also energized many right-wing commentators and President Trump supporters, who argue that reports about hate speech and racist graffiti are often fake accounts disseminated by liberal media.
âAnyone (including the lapdog media) who was surprised by this hate crime hoax hasnât been paying attention,â Jeremy Carl, a research fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution at Stanford University, tweeted early Wednesday in response to the news about the Air Force Academy Preparat ory School. âThe stream of fake hate crimes became a flood after Trumpâs election.â
âHATE HOAX: Air Force Academy Cadet Candidate Wrote Fake Racist Messages Himself,â read a headline in the conservative Daily Caller.
There is even a website â" fakehatecrimes.org â" committed to listing hate crime hoaxes.
In August, Sebastian Gorka, then-deputy assistant to Trump and his spokesman on national security matters, appeared on MSNBC to explain why the president hadnât condemned the bombing of a mosque in Bloomington, Minn. He suggested it was because the attack may have been a âfakeâ hate crime.
âThereâs a great rule: All initial reports are false,â³ Gorka said. âWeâve had a series of crimes committed, alleged hate crimes, by right-wing individuals in the last six months, that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left.â
Despite the string of frauds, experts on hate crimes say that false accounts are still relati vely rare.
Brian Levin, director for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, told Talking Points Memo that hoaxes do appear in hate crime reports, just as they do in reports of other criminal offenses. But these fakes are a âtiny fractionâ of the hundreds of hate crimes reported to law enforcement every year.
âThese hoaxes have become symbols for some who want to promote the idea that most hate crimes are hoaxes,â Levin said. âThatâs important to rectify.â
And indeed, scores of these incidents are cropping up across the country, particularly on college campuses.
Using a ProPublica database, BuzzFeed News found 154 total incidents of hate speech at more than 120 college campuses nationwide. More than two-thirds promoted white supremacist groups or ideology, while more than a third cited Trumpâs name or slogans, BuzzFeed News reported.
Yet authorities caught fewer than 5 percent of perpetrator s in cases of vandalism or threats. In at least three instances, college officials determined the incident was a hoax, according to BuzzFeed News.
On Tuesday, Silveria, the Air Force general who gained national fame for his speech condemning the September incidents at the preparatory academy, stood by his original remarks.
âRegardless of the circumstances under which those words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed,â Silveria told the Colorado Springs Gazette in a Tuesday email. âYou can never over-emphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect â" and those who donât understand those concepts, arenât welcome here.â
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