aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Actions speak louder than words

So, ugly anonymous messages were found on the doors of five black cadets at a prep school associated with the Air Force Academy. The head of the AFA, a 3-star general, assembled all the cadets and read them the riot act. Was that the right thing to do?

I can find no fault with his statements about the worth of all persons and his anger at anyone who would so denigrate others for their race. But . . . This kind of thing has been going on at college campuses all over the country for a while now. And in the vast majority of cases, the anonymous ugly messages, nooses, and whatnot have turned out to be hoaxes perpetrated by the targets, in a bid to stir up just the sort of we-don't-tolerate-that-around-here response the General just gave. I'm not doubting that racism of the sort depicted exists, mind you, I'm just pointing out that the actual data we have on such incidents shows that one can't jump to conclusions without risking getting played by those who started it.

So, what should he have done? I presume an Air Force General in his position commands considerable investigative resources. A quick and highly professional investigation by detectives with genuine forensic tools at their disposal ought to have been able to fix responsibility on the perpetrators, whoever they are, in relatively short order. If the perps were white members of the class, then they should be expelled. But . . . If the perps were among the black students themselves, then they should be expelled. Sending anonymous hate messages is sick and despicable behavior, worthy of expulsion; but so is stirring up the whole community by posting anonymous messages to yourself.

The General could have sent a much stronger message by waiting a few days -- until he had actual proof of guilt in his hands -- and then throwing the undoubted culprits out without fear or favor. As it is, his angry rant has passed over the white perps, if white they be, without real consequences; or he has given the black perps what they were looking for, if they be black. Real consequences speak louder than mere words, and real consequences fixed upon those who actually committed the deeds would affirm the code of respect expected in the Air Force of its personnel without chewing out the hundreds of cadets who didn't deserve the tongue-lashing they got. But then, it's always easier to indulge in passionate denunciation than to sort out the facts and deal with them effectively.

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