U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KKTV) - "It's time to stop this kind of thing," said the mother of one cadet candidate who was the victim of a racial slur.
"I'm praying for our country to change and do better."
11 News reporter Khloe Keeler spoke with Tracye Whitfield, who says her 18-year-old son, along with four other black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy (AFA) Preparatory School, were victims to racial slurs. The words, written on whiteboards outside their dorm rooms, read, "Go home," followed by the N-word. The hateful messages were discovered Monday.
The cadet candidates all attend the Air Force Academy Preparatory School, a 10-month program that gives some prospective cadets a little more preparation before being accepted to the AFA. Most who graduate from the prep school go on to attend the academy.
Whitfield is flying to the academy Friday from Massachusettes to make sure her son is doing OK.
"So many young black men are getting killed, and there is no justice for them," Whitfield said. "It’s a nerve-racking feeling. These racial slurs cannot be tolerated."
That message is similar to the one put out by the superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, to the academy Thursday. He passionately addressed 5,500 cadets and academy faculty and staff during lunch.
"If you're outraged by those words, then you're in the right place," said Silveria. "That kind of behavior has no place at the prep school. It has no place at USAFA and it has no place in the United States Air Force."
"You should be outraged not only as an airman but as a human being. I'll tell you that the appropriate response for horrible language and horrible ideas, the appropriate response, is a better idea."
He went on.
"Some of you may think that happened down in the prep school and that doesn't apply to us. I would be naive and we would all be naive to think that everything is perfect here. We would be naive think we shouldn't discuss this topic.
"We would also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what's going on in our country. Things like Charlottesville and Ferguson. The protests in the NFL. That's why we have a better idea.
"It's about our diversity and it's the power of the diversity ... The power of us as a diverse group. The power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all makeup, all upbringing.
"If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can't treat someone from another gender whether that's a man or a woman with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can't treat someone from another race or a different colored skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."
The academy says it is investigating the incident. Whitfield says she has been contacted and thinks they are doing great at the investigation.
"These young men and women are supposed to come together to serve and protect," said Whitfield.
It's not clear what punishments any offenders may face, but a spokesperson for the academy says they could be court-martialed.
Watch Silveria's entire speech below: