The Corner

No, West Point Cadets Should Not Give the ‘Black Power’ Salute When in Uniform

Late last week a small group of female African-American cadets snapped a picture that is rightfully generating controversy and has rightly triggered an Army investigation. Here it is:

As a person who’s given multiple briefings on the do’s and don’ts of personal expression in uniform, I immediately knew two things — first, unless there is a highly implausible innocent explanation, these young women violated DoD directives,  and — second – sympathetic leftists would be falling all over themselves to excuse their behavior.

Senior leaders drill into recruits and cadets the notion that you simply don’t make partisan or nonpartisan political statements in uniform. It’s a bright-line rule. Moreover, the definition of a “nonpartisan” activity is quite broad, encompassing “activity supporting or relating to . . . issues not specifically identified with, national or State political parties and associated or ancillary organizations or clubs.” In other words, don’t make statements even about contentious issues while in uniform. 

Is the raised fist a political statement? You be the judge:



However, according to the Washington Post editorial board, the cadets were engaged in a mere “fist pump,” or — in the words of another apologist — “that fist to them meant you and your sisters did what only a few people, male or female, have ever done in this country.” The Post’s editors then hilariously claimed that “The only thing we can see in the picture is a group of strong, confident young women enjoying their moment in the sun.”

Well, I suppose it is theoretically possible that those cadets are the only group of highly-educated black women in the country who did not know the symbolism of the raised, clenched fist and were just caught in an extremely odd fist-pump. It’s also theoretically possible that I can teleport the Brooklyn Bridge to the nearby Duck River using only the awesome power of my mind.

Let’s see . . . are their any other uniquely racially-charged hand gestures out there? I’m sure that if a picture emerged of sixteen white male cadets with arms upraised, the Post editorial board would just claim they’re “pointing to the sky.” 

Wearing the uniform of your country is a privilege and a sacred trust. It is not a cadet’s platform for attention-seeking and statement-making. The Army should investigate and respond according to the law and the evidence — and not according to the latest trends in liberal intellectual fashion. If the cadets were intending to make a politically-charged statement, then they must be punished in the same manner as any other cadet. If not, then they should be sharply warned to use good judgment and common sense in the messages they broadcast to the world.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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