An image of 16 Black female cadets at the elite US Military Academy known as West Point has sparked controversy and outrage. The image shows the cadets raising their fists and displaying sabers in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, such actions of political expression are strictly forbidden at the military academy and is considered a violation of the school honor code.
The students are also considered active members of the military and may be in violation of DOD directive 1344.10 which states:
A member of the Armed Forces on active duty may not:
126.96.36.199. Join a partisan or nonpartisan political club and attend its meetings when NOT in uniform, subject to the restrictions of subparagraph 188.8.131.52. (See DoD Instruction 1334.1 (Reference (c).)
-A member of the Armed forces shall not:
-184.108.40.206. Display a partisan political sign, poster, banner, or similar device visible to the public at one’s residence on a military installation, even if that residence is part of a privatized housing development.
Rolling out contacted the Public Affairs office of the academy for a statement. The following statement was received by rolling out today:
“An inquiry into this matter is currently ongoing. We can confirm that the cadets in this photo are members of the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2016. -Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker, Director of U.S. Military Academy Public Affairs.”
Commencement and commissioning ceremonies are set for May 17, 2016 for West Point cadets. It is unknown at this time how this investigation will affect the women’s military careers.
Black women in the armed forces face a difficult and challenging environment. Whether it is sexual assault or backlash from how they wear their hair, a Black soldier, sailor or Marine is always under scrutiny. But the cadets also have a legitimate concern as Black women in the military and their treatment. The Army still classifies the 2005 death of PFC. LaVena Johnson as suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound with an M-16 while stationed in Iraq. This is despite the fact that her shoulder was dislocated, her neck was bruised and her vagina was surgically cut out and the cavity was splashed with lye. The bullet wound to her head was not from an M-16 but from a pistol. So Black Lives Matter should matter even in the military.