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Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

Eds Note: This post is a little far afield for our archive but at a time where our city’s police are using undue and deadly force against relatively peaceful demonstrators everyday, serious proposals directly addressing systemic Racism from within authoritarian organizations are particularly interesting. And we had a hard time finding this document online.

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POLICY PROPOSAL: AN ANTI-RACIST WEST POINT
June 25th, 2020

To West Point leadership, the Long Gray Line, and the citizens we serve to protect:

This is a call to action.

The United States Military Academy has not taken the necessary strides towards uprooting the racism that saturates its history. We are calling upon West Point and its leadership to redress three major failures:

  1. Systemic racism continues to exist at West Point.

2. Anti-racism is not part of the curriculum at West Point.

3. The conditions for an anti-racist space are not present at West Point.

By failing in these areas, West Point ultimately fails to produce leaders of character equipped to lead diverse organizations. In other words, West Point is failing to accomplish its mission. We believe West Point has an opportunity to lead the way for the military and the Nation by proving its aims towards “eradicating racism,” as the Superintendent wrote to the West Point community on June 4th, 2020. This can be accomplished by committing to measurable, anti-racist policies and systems which would address these overarching failures.

This policy proposal is a compilation of firsthand experiences and calls to action from members of

the Long Gray Line, highlighting the necessary action steps for fighting racism and normalizing anti-

racism at the Academy. We encourage you to read this proposal in its entirety in order to understand

the prevalence of racism at the Academy and our vision for its elimination. Though we are deeply

disturbed, we hold fast to the hope that our Alma Mater will take the necessary steps to champion

the values it espouses.

Now is the time for action.

Very Respectfully,

David Bindon USMA ‘19: First Captain, Valedictorian, Marshall Scholar

Simone Askew USMA ‘18: First Captain, Rhodes Scholar

Joy Schaeffer USMA ‘18: Valedictorian, Marshall Scholar, Stamps Scholar, B1 Commander

Tony Smith USMA ‘19: Class President, Dep. Brigade Commander, Men’s Rugby Captain

Care Kehn USMA ‘18: Brigade Respect Captain, Fulbright Scholar

Jack Lowe USMA ‘19: Brigade Respect Captain, Fulbright Scholar

Netteange Monaus USMA ‘18: Regimental Respect Captain, Schwarzman Scholar

Ashley Salgado USMA ‘19: Truman Scholar, Stamps Scholar, H1 First Sergeant

Maria Blom USMA ‘18: Battalion Commander, Crew Team Captain

Views expressed in this work are those of individuals and do not represent those of the United States Army,

Department of Defense, or any other organization.

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

SUMMARY OF ACTION ITEMS

Section 1: An End to Systemic Racism

1.

Release an updated statement that explicitly acknowledges the existence of anti-Black racism

endemic to West Point, declares racism’s deleterious impacts on the experiences and leadership

development of Black Cadets, and states that Black lives matter.

2.

Release a statement that establishes a zero-tolerance policy for racism at West Point, outlines the

actions that leadership will take to dismantle racism and normalize anti-racism, and designates

completion dates and points of contact for each action.

3.

Release individual statements from prominent white leaders at the Academy (e.g., the Dean,

Commandant, and Brigade Tactical Officer) acknowledging how their white privilege sustains

systems of racism, explaining the role they will play as an ally in destroying the norm of white

supremacy, and mandating their subordinates to have these conversations with their units.

4.

Publish an aggregated, anonymized account of all Equal Opportunity claims and determinations

to the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity and to the Academy leadership

over the past twenty years.

5.

Begin publishing all brigade command climate survey results, including those from the past

twenty years.

Section 2: An Anti-Racist Education

1.

Commit West Point’s leadership development program to help Cadets unlearn racism and be

allies in pursuit of an anti-racist and anti-bias society.

1

2.

Create a core academic class on the intersection between race, ethnicity, gender, and class that

every Cadet is required to take.

2

3.

Establish a full-time PhD-level Diversity and Inclusion Chair.

4.

Hold annual Diversity and Inclusion training sessions at the start of each academic year to

prepare Cadets and faculty for the upcoming school year.

5.

Hold anti-racism character training sessions once each semester with qualified instructors.

Provide dedicated time for Cadets to prepare for these sessions.

6.

Require a comprehensive review of all courses to ensure the inclusion of Black, Latinx, and

other marginalized people in the authorship and production of course materials, course

literature, and other course content.

7.

Require that humanities and social science courses add classes, blocks, and lessons of instruction

dedicated to teaching the history and writings of marginalized people. Require each course

director to prove there are no Black scholars in their spaces if they choose to reference none and

publish these proofs to the public on West Point’s website.

8.

Educate Cadets and faculty on appropriate and necessary political awareness and participation,

and on proper social discourse in these matters.

Anti-bias refers to the combination of anti-racist and anti-sexist policies.

1

See Appendix C for a previously proposed example of a course on this topic.

2

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Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

Section 3: An Anti-Racist Institution

1.

Publish an annual report on diversity, inclusion, racism, and anti-racism at West Point, providing

detailed statistics on retention at the Academy, faculty and Tactical Department composition,

updates on anti-racism initiatives, anonymized Equal Opportunity claims and determinations

throughout each year, command climate survey results, and trends within each of the previously

listed categories.

2.

End all financially discriminatory policies at West Point, including the forfeiture of pay

mechanism used as a disciplinary measure for Cadets.

3.

Establish an independent anti-racism advisory committee composed of subject-matter experts

on racism and other forms of oppression. This committee must be able to operate free of

institutional influence or fear of retribution from West Point and the Department of Defense.

4.

Investigate the Cadet disciplinary system for racially discriminatory punishments and codify a

means of preventing this in the future.

5.

Invest in spaces that protect and nurture Black Cadets’ identities.

6.

Invest in spaces that will allow other minority groups to thrive, so groups do not have to vie for

already scarce resources.

7.

Conduct a thorough investigation of West Point’s donor practices and the influence donors have

at a federally funded public institution, in order to ensure that organizations such as the United

Daughters of the Confederacy, who have previously contributed to white supremacist ideals at

West Point, do not have the power to do so.

8.

Hire more rotating and permanent Black faculty as Tactical Officers, instructors, department

heads, and coaches, and demonstrate how West Point will diversify their recruitment.

9.

Remove all names, monuments, and art honoring or venerating Confederate figures. Establish a

commission on whether to contextualize or remove other problematic relics of slavery, the

Confederacy, and white supremacy.

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Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

TABLE OF CONTENTS

POLICY PROPOSAL: AN ANTI-RACIST WEST POINT 1

SUMMARY OF ACTION ITEMS 2

TABLE OF CONTENTS 4

INTRODUCTION 5

SECTION 1: AN END TO SYSTEMIC RACISM 8

Narrative: The Endemic of Anti-Blackness, by Simone Askew 8

Call to Action: Take the First Step 10

Call to Action: Zero-Tolerance Policy for Racism 11

SECTION 2: AN ANTI-RACIST EDUCATION 13

Narrative: West Point Fails to Teach Anti-Racism, by Joy Schaeffer 13

Call to Action: Intentionally Anti-Racist Curriculum 15

Call to Action: Eliminate Empty Commitments to Diversity and Inclusion 19

Narrative: Leading Marginalized Soldiers in a Diverse Army, by Ashley Salgado 20

Call to Action: Educate Cadets on Political Awareness and Participation 20

SECTION 3: AN ANTI-RACIST INSTITUTION 23

Narrative: Disparities in Disciplinary Practices, by a Cadet in the Class of 2021 23

Call to Action: Remove Financially Harmful Punishments 25

Call to Action: Invest in Inclusion 26

Call to Action: Divest from Confederate Memorialization 28

CONCLUSION 33

APPENDICES 34

Appendix A: Accompanying Message to Academy Leadership 34

Appendix B: Testimonials of Experiencing Racism at USMA 36

Appendix C: Example Proposal for New Core Course 39

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Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

INTRODUCTION

We write this call to action from a place of deep concern. In this proposal, we speak to not only the

dire need for courageous, honorable leadership, but also propose ways we can embody the values we

claim to hold.

The central and guiding principles of the United States Military Academy (USMA) can be found in

our mission statement: to educate, train, and inspire leaders of character committed to and prepared

for professional excellence and service to this Nation. If we are truly inculcating these principles,

implementing anti-racist policies is integral to this effort. Radical inclusion coupled with a

foundation of anti-racism,

particularly in a nation founded and built upon white supremacy, cannot

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be an afterthought; it must be the lens through which the Academy executes all of its aims.

This proposal takes inspiration from the “Black Manifesto” written by Black Cadets in September

1971 in response to President Nixon’s proposal to build a Confederate monument at the Academy.

The document listed thirteen grievances demanding “equality, respect, and understanding” from the

Academy where they experienced “a long train of abuses and usurpations” and “blatant racism.”

The manifesto not only resulted in the termination of a proposal to build a Confederate memorial,

but also garnered support for a hop that invited Black women from surrounding civilian colleges,

the dedication of Buffalo Soldier Field to the historically Black 9th and 10th Cavalry, the prohibition

of Confederate flags in Cadet rooms, the cessation of the West Point band’s playing of Dixie, the

organization of a charity concert—featuring Stevie Wonder and the Supremes—to raise $41,000 for

sickle cell anemia research, the implementation of a Black History Week celebration, the

revitalization of the Race Relations/Equal Opportunity Office, and the requirement for eight hours

of mandatory race relations training to Cadets and sixteen hours for staff and faculty.

4

However, this movement ebbed in the 1980s as the entry of women into the Academy shifted focus

to address the sexism that was rife within the Corps.

This focal shift demonstrated West Point’s

5

reactive nature when it comes to addressing simultaneous and intersectional discriminations—this

reactivity persists today. Despite progress on both the issues of racism and sexism, these changes are

inadequate. We are confident that it is possible for West Point to pursue and implement lasting

changes such as those successfully implemented through the Black Manifesto. Therefore, we seek to

describe our vision for an anti-racist Academy in this proposal.

Both of West Point’s initial statements in response to the Black Lives Matter movement attempted

to address racism by calling upon Soldiers to treat every person with dignity and respect, but failed

to sufficiently mention or define racism. Far too often, we have witnessed the outcome of

According to the Anti-racism Digital Library, “Anti-racism can be defined as some form of focused and sustained

3

action, which includes inter-cultural, inter-faith, multi-lingual and inter-abled (i.e. differently abled) communities with the

intent to change a system or an institutional policy, practice, or procedure which has racist effects.”

Seidule, “From Slavery to Black Power,” in

Intolerance: Political Animals and Their Prey,

ed. Bruce Chilton and Robert E.

4

Tully, (Lanham: Hamilton, 2017), 82-83.

Ibid., 84.

5

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Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

addressing racial violence with such inconsequential calls to action that are directed only at

individuals. In April 2019, we experienced insidious attempts to remove one of the few systems in

place at West Point to combat racism, sexism, and homophobia: the Respect Committee. Some of

the architects leading this dismantling effort still work at West Point today.

As an institution, we are emerging from an unfavorable legacy of systemic racism, harmful

exclusion, and overt white supremacy. However, the current Superintendent has said that there is no

systemic racism at West Point, despite West Point’s racist history and the personal statements of

many Cadets who have experienced it firsthand.

Until there is an institutional a cknowledgment and

6

reconciliation with this past that continues to manifest in the Academy’s present, undoing these

foundational inequities and mitigating persistent harms will be impossible.

We respond to Secretary Esper’s request on June 18th, 2020, for the Pentagon to “immediately

present actionable ideas that the Department can begin implementing now,” to ensure that the

military leads the way as it “embraces diversity and inclusion, and rejects hate, bigotry, and unlawful

discrimination in all forms.” On June 25th, he extended this request to the entire military force,

asking us to “have the hard conversations with [our] leadership.” This is our attempt to do so: we

have written the attached proposal containing action steps West Point can take to lead the effort as

an anti-racist institution.

Though we are aware that the Academy leadership is currently developing a strategy toward these

ends, these plans do not mention race, racism, or anti-racism. Therefore, such efforts sidestep the

primary enemies: racism and white supremacy. West Point has demonstrated an inability to

meaningfully discuss race and a tendency to silence such conversations when grassroots efforts

attempt to start them.

Not only should we be concerned that West Point graduates arrive at their

7

units unprepared to have conversations about race, we should also be concerned that West Point’s

inability to do so means that it is far easier for racist beliefs to

be maintained through the Academy, to the extent that West Point graduates are tying nooses and

joking they be used on their Black peers.

8

In our time as Cadets, two Superintendents have championed diversity and inclusion. And still, overt

experiences of racism—like those placed throughout this document—and more insidious forms of

racism continue to persist. The Academy must acknowledge that racism is the enemy, even if we

overcome a lack of diversity. Increasing Black representation without holistically addressing racism

only causes more suffering for Black people.

Tom Vanden Brook and Michael Collins, “Trump heads to West Point amid tension with top military brass and a

6

nation whipsawed by racial tension,” USAToday, June 12, 2020,

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/

2020/06/12/trump-west-point-speech-comes-amid-military-racial-tension/5283283002/

.

When a cadet started the #ITooAmWestPoint social media campaign to educate people on common microaggressions,

7

West Point encouraged the cadet not to release the photos in fear that they would be seen as too “political.” Aaron

Morrison, “Exclusive: These Alums Want West Point to Have an Honest Conversation About Race,”

Mic,

May 18, 2016,

https://www.mic.com/articles/143693/these-alums-want-west-point-to-have-an-honest-conversation-about-race

.

Jozlyn A. McCaw, “A Noose in our Army,”

WordPress,

June 23, 2020,

https://eyesofthebird.wordpress.com/

8

2020/06/23/a-noose-in-the-army/

.

6

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

Therefore, we have written the attached document containing a list of action steps to build an anti-

racist West Point. Among these action steps, we offer ways that various existing teams within

USMA, such as the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity (ODIEO), could be

improved. We want to be very clear: this proposal is not for those teams. We believe that these teams

would make the necessary changes if given the authority and vision to do so. Rather, this is directed

toward the Academy’s leadership who have the power to make the necessary changes—changes that

will empower ODIEO and all entities at West Point to work together to be anti-racist.

It seems the military often considers conservative perspectives—such as “America First,” pro-gun

sentiment, and Confederate veneration—as culturally permissible, while the topic of race—

especially when presented by people of color—is called out as overly partisan. We implore you to

consider this tendency and not dismiss this proposal as a partisan statement. Though our

recommended actions carry applicability in eradicating many forms of bias and discrimination at

West Point, such as sexism, ableism, fatphobia, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and classism,

the remainder of this proposal will focus on addressing anti-Black racism as a first step on a long

journey—a journey toward an anti-racist West Point. This proposal was sent via email to Academy

leadership on June 25, 2020.

9

The content of this email is included in Appendix A.

9

7

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

SECTION 1: AN END TO SYSTEMIC RACISM

1.

Release an updated statement that explicitly acknowledges the existence of anti-Black racism

endemic to West Point, declares racism’s deleterious impacts on the experiences and leadership

development of Black Cadets, and states that Black lives matter.

2.

Release a statement that establishes a zero-tolerance policy for racism at West Point, outlines the

actions that leadership will take to dismantle racism and normalize anti-racism, and designates

completion dates and points of contact for each action.

3.

Release individual statements from prominent white leaders at the Academy (e.g., the Dean,

Commandant, and Brigade Tactical Officer) acknowledging how their white privilege sustains

systems of racism, explaining the role they will play as an ally in destroying the norm of white

supremacy, and mandating their subordinates to have these conversations with their units.

4.

Publish an aggregated, anonymized account of all Equal Opportunity claims and determinations

to the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity and to the Academy leadership

over the past twenty years.

5.

Publish all brigade command climate survey results each year, including those from the past

twenty years.

Narrative: The Endemic of Anti-Blackness, by Simone Askew

It was 2018 and just two weeks after I had been selected for the role of First Captain of West Point,

becoming the first Black woman to hold the position.

It was late, and I was headed to my room. There waiting for me was a small, white note, inserted

underneath my door. I opened the folded page, which bore no signature. Inside was a picture of me

holding a rifle, photoshopped with a monkey’s face over my own.

Though I was aware of the historical precedence of portraying Black people as monkeys, I

wondered if the depiction suggested something deeper about my leadership. Racing through my

mind were all the presentations and conversations that I had given in the past 14 days as First

Captain and whether I had made any mistakes. This self-interrogation fueled in me a paralyzing fear.

I feared if others knew how deeply such an image impacted me that I would be told—as Black

Cadets and Officers are often told—that this was not the first nor would it be the last time that I

would experience racism, so I had better get used to it. Even worse, they would deem me as too

emotional, dramatic, self-centered, weak, and “always making it about race.”

My strategy, instead, was to perform flawlessly. After receiving a Rhodes Scholarship, I was

optimistic that I had finally done enough. My efforts, at last, would prove my humanity to the

anonymous artist—and to the entire Corps of Cadets.

However, more racist caricatures and comments continued to circulate online. One of the popular

images even depicted me as Satan himself.

Am I an animal, am I a demon, or am I human?

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Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

Officers would frequently come up to me and say, “you really seem to be getting a lot of backlash,”

with no acknowledgment of the racism and sexism that were so evidently wrong. Exposure to such

harm and the inaction that followed from Academy leaders sent a clear message to me at the age of

20. At best, it suggested such mockeries were an inherent part of the job. At worst, it suggested

people really did see me in the ways the pictures portrayed.

The Academy’s perception of me as a Black woman becomes less clear when we interrogate the

men and legacies that West Point immortalizes on our campus. In tolerating these symbols, West

Point calls into doubt any claims to valuing Blackness or womanhood.

It is essential to consider how this story is just one of many and minimally traumatizing when

compared to the stories my Black brothers and sisters have shared. Perhaps the most concerning

conclusion one can draw from these testimonies is that if a young Black woman who is paraded by

the Academy as a model to follow is

dually a victim of just racially

gendered harm, one can deduce the

egregious nature of the experiences of

Cadets the Academy does not parade

for the public.

If this is the treatment the Academy

believed that I deserved as the highest

ranking Cadet and a Rhodes

scholarship recipient, imagine how the

Academy treats my Black classmates

who have yet to achieve such nominal success! While institutional achievement will never fully shield

us from the racial violence pervasive at West Point, I worry every day about those who have yet to

acquire those illusive shields of “success” against the brutal violence they encounter.

To be sure, West Point has come a long way. I know this as well as anyone, as my experience is only

possible because of decades of efforts towards progress, as well as the careers of trailblazing Black

women who came before me. Nevertheless, the reverence that West Point holds for racist figures is

antithetical to the claims it makes about the next generation of Army leaders. Dually, a sustained

unwillingness to acknowledge the pervasive and systemic racism at West Point means that there is no

ability to protect Black Cadets from the irreversible harm of racial violence.

We say that we want more Black Cadets and Officers, but we refuse to acknowledge the racial tax

that they must pay just to survive. We place a few Black people into leadership positions, but we will

not acknowledge that the dehumanizing backlash they receive is racism. We publicly parade the

“firsts” of our institution but use them as a façade to avoid committing in word or action to anti-

racism.

This duplicity undermines our dearly held mission and makes adherence to Duty, Honor, or Country

impossible. There is no hope for the development of character in a space where Black women are

9

“I was called a ‘nigger’ during my plebe year.

When I reported it to my Tactical Officer,

they instead accused me of lying and

initiated an honor investigation against me.”

The testimonies throughout this document were provided by Cadets

in a 2020 survey. All testimonies are compiled in Appendix B.

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

seen as monkeys, where traitorous slave owners are the celebrated heroes we choose to immortalize,

and where our commitment to anti-racism is nonexistent. If Black lives truly do not matter to the

military—then that should be known. And if they do, then that ought to be undoubtedly clear, as

well.

Call to Action: Take the First Step

We find the two statements released by USMA on June 4th, 2020—ten days after George Floyd’s

murder—woefully inadequate in offering a clear stance on the Black Lives Matter protests

throughout the world. The first response was an Instagram post with a caption copying the exact

words made by the Secretary of the Army, Chief of Staff of the Army, and Sergeant Major of the

Army the day prior.

The second response was a more formal public statement, which also offered

10

no clear stance on the issue.

More poignantly, the lack of a statement from prominent white

11

leaders at the Academy continues the historical silence of leaders regarding racial violence and

injustice. There was no commitment to anti-racism or stance against white supremacy. Rather,

USMA social media accounts were posting about graduation and National Running Day, reaffirming

the callousness and insensitivity with which West Point treats anti-Black racism.

12

As the Chief of Staff of the Army noted in a Twitter video posted on June 5th, public statements

are just the beginning, and action must follow. We agree. Nonetheless, we find West Point’s initial

statements inadequate—harmful, even, because they illuminate that whenever a strong stance against

racism is needed, the Academy’s leadership chooses to take passive stances that do not properly

define the issue or lead to

measurable action. When will our

leadership learn that simply asking

Soldiers to treat every person with

dignity and respect will not uproot

the racism deeply embedded in the

Army’s history?

Given the shortcomings of any

public statement provided by West

Point or the Army thus far, we call

on the Academy to release an

updated statement that explicitly

establishes a zero-tolerance policy

for racism and states that Black lives matter. It should also outline the concrete actions that will be

undertaken to eradicate racism and normalize anti-racism at West Point, including all the actions

US Military Academy-West Point. “Gripping Hands.”

Instagram

, June 5, 2020. Accessed June 5, 2020.

https://

10

www.instagram.com/p/CBCFhRCDfbw/

US Military Academy-West Point. “A message from our Superintendent.”

Instagram,

June 5, 2020. Accessed June 5,

11

2020.

View this post on Instagram

A message from our Superintendent

A post shared by US Military Academy-West Point (@westpoint_usma) on

US Military Academy-West Point. “National Running Day.” Instagram, June 3, 2020. Accessed June 3, 2020.

https://

12

www.instagram.com/p/CA-VFrMnPJF/?igshid=1oza759x1xoc0

10

“I was called a ‘nigger’ during my freshman

year at West Point. I was told that I was going

to rob someone because I was Black. A

student made a noose and put it on his Black

roommate’s desk as a joke. I was called ‘white’

because I speak intelligently, which is built on

the assumption that white people speak better

than Black people.”

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

contained in this proposal, designating who is accountable for each action and when it is expected to

be completed. We ask that white senior leaders specifically acknowledge their vital role in destroying

the norm of white supremacy at the Academy.

This failure to acknowledge racism and white supremacy runs throughout the Army. Lieutenant

Maria Blom—USMA Class of 2018, Engineer platoon leader, and co-signer of this proposal—

captured the sentiment of this silence, saying:

Until the publication of the Army’s tri-signed letter regarding civil unrest on June 3rd, 2020,

it seemed that leaders at all levels were hesitant to make a statement about current events or

bring up the issue of race with me, my peers, and most importantly, our Soldiers. I was

consuming news, podcasts, and articles, left to myself to digest the content. It was infuriating

to me that the military community was ignoring this. Silence from leadership is deafening.

This can’t be made into “check the box” training. These conversations must come from

leaders demonstrating true care for their subordinates.

As a New Cadet, I memorized West Point’s definition of a leader of character: “Sir/Ma’am,

a leader of character seeks to discover the truth, decide what is right, and demonstrate the

character and commitment to act accordingly.” We, as members of the Long Gray Line and

leaders produced by West Point, are asking that the Academy implement and practice the

values and standards we preach.

America and the world are watching and waiting for leadership. The first step is to recognize and

take responsibility for this problem. We are convinced our Alma Mater is the institution most

capable of teaching people from all corners of America and the world to acknowledge, unlearn, and

address systemic racism. No one thinks they are part of the problem. And that is the problem. We

must teach Cadets and future Officers to be anti-racist and to be part of the solution.

Call to Action: Zero-Tolerance Policy for Racism

The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity (ODIEO) purports to be “the focal

point for West Point Diversity and Inclusion outreach, initiatives, projects, and plans.”

However,

13

United States Military Academy. Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity,

https://www.westpoint.edu/

13

about/west-point-staff/office-of-diversity

.

11

“Someone put the letter ‘N’ in one anonymous post online, and then another

user put up the letter ‘I’, until the word ‘Nigger’ was spelled out by six different

users. I anonymously commented how ridiculous this was. I was then told that I

was being a ‘pussy’ and a ‘sensitive bitch.’ From that point on, I realized just

how alone I truly am and how much of a racist problem West Point has but

refuses to admit to.”

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

since its inception in 2014, it has focused most of its energy outside USMA, except for the West

Point Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Conference, which remains, to a certain degree,

performative. Furthermore, it has neglected to collect or provide any public data regarding the

institutional culture towards

diversity and retention.

Therefore, we are calling for a

complete account of all equal

opportunity claims and

determinations submitted to

ODIEO and to Academy

leadership over the past twenty

years. Additionally, we request

they provide all command climate survey results, formal and informal, from the past twenty years.

The results of the command climate surveys are published by the United States Corps of Cadets

(USCC) Equal Opportunity Representative annually and shared internally at USMA. While there is

no doubt the data has been collected and reviewed, there is serious doubt that adequate redresses

have been made. Without these data points there is no foundation to prove West Point’s

commitment to seriously investigating racist incidents and upholding a zero-tolerance policy for

racism in the future. The lack of action exacerbates distrust between Academy leaders and Black

cadets who courageously relive their trauma by sharing their painful experiences. Finally, the lack of

such a foundation renders impossible any collaboration between current programs or a framework

for independent oversight.

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“An old grad made a racist ‘joke’ to Cadets, who

were primarily Black and Hispanic, saying that they

probably got their exercise by breaking into

houses. When I told him I did not understand nor

did I find his joke funny, he walked away.”

“One day I sat with a group of white males in my company during dinner.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was coming up. One of them mentioned how his

teacher made him feel ‘guilty’ about being white because of the oppression their

ancestors put upon minority Americans for hundreds of years. The Cadet

explained how he should not feel guilty because he was not the one that caused

the pain.

I mentioned how it is important to recognize the privilege young, white, straight,

Christian males reap due to the power dynamic white men have created in

American society. Once I said those words, I was suddenly being shouted at by

every white male at that table. I was being told that I was ‘crazy and racist,’ that

‘African Americans should do the same because of affirmative action,’ and

‘You’re only saying that because you’re Black.’”

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

SECTION 2: AN ANTI-RACIST EDUCATION

1.

Commit West Point’s leadership development program to help Cadets unlearn racism and be

allies in pursuit of an anti-racist and anti-bias society.

14

2.

Create a core academic class on the intersection between race, ethnicity, gender, and class that

every Cadet is required to take.

15

3.

Establish a full-time PhD-level Diversity and Inclusion Chair.

4.

Hold annual Diversity and Inclusion training sessions at the start of each academic year to

prepare Cadets and faculty for the upcoming school year.

5.

Hold anti-racism character training sessions once each semester with qualified instructors.

Provide dedicated time for Cadets to prepare for these sessions.

6.

Require a comprehensive review of all courses to ensure the inclusion of Black, Latinx, and

other marginalized people in the authorship and production of course materials, course

literature, and other course content.

7.

Require that humanities and social science courses add classes, blocks, and lessons of instruction

dedicated to teaching the history and writings of marginalized people. Require each course

director to prove there are no Black scholars in their spaces if they choose to reference none and

publish these proofs to the public on West Point’s website.

8.

Educate Cadets and faculty on appropriate and necessary political awareness and participation,

and on proper social discourse in these matters.

Narrative: West Point Fails to Teach Anti-Racism, by Joy Schaeffer

The extent to which West Point fails to prepare white Cadets to understand racism and white

supremacy is acutely evident in my experience there as a white woman. Although I graduated as the

valedictorian of my class, I left woefully unprepared to create inclusive environments in future

diverse teams.

I graduated having learned about the importance of diversity and inclusion, but never about the

difference between them. I thought simply having people of many backgrounds was enough to

satisfy both. I didn’t understand the effort required as a leader to ensure that Black service members

feel valued, included, and heard, without having to minimize their Blackness.

I graduated without an understanding of how racism differs from prejudice, or the extent to which

racism is exacerbated by systems of power.

I graduated without an understanding of how I could still be racist, despite my best intentions and

the fact that I have always espoused the equality of all people.

I graduated with a degree in history without understanding the straight line that runs directly from

slavery through sharecropping, lynching, mass incarceration, and police brutality.

Anti-bias refers to the combination of anti-racist and anti-sexist policies.

14

See Appendix C for a previously proposed example of a course on this topic.

15

13

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

I graduated celebrating “how far we’ve come” instead of recognizing “how far we have to go.”

I graduated knowing that my whiteness is a culture, but still oblivious to the ways in which it

structures my interactions with people of color.

I graduated without an understanding of how to identify and call out microaggressions, and that my

silence in the wake of them enables greater acts of racism.

I graduated without an understanding of how to sensitively engage in discussions about the

discrimination experienced by Black people in the Army.

I graduated understanding the concept of white privilege, but not about the specific ways in which it

actively and passively contributes to the continued marginalization of people of color.

I graduated with an expectation that Black people should educate me on racial matters, without

knowledge of how this sense of entitlement to Black labor is premised on my white privilege.

I graduated having learned about the historic “white man’s burden,” but without uprooting my own

white savior complex.

I graduated aware of implicit biases, but not of how they contribute directly to the same systemic

racism that killed George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and too many

others.

I graduated without ever hearing the term “anti-racism.”

West Point—with its constant calls for “diversity and inclusion,” and its celebration of the role of

the Army in ending slavery and segregation—did not do enough to actively reveal and root out the

white supremacy that inevitably lies

within me as a white person in the

United States. Even despite its

Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and

Equal Opportunity. Even despite

the many training events on

professional ethics and character

and team building and trust. Even as

a history major who took a class

about the history of race. While

being a history major certainly did

take sandpaper to the boulder of my

white supremacy, that is something that many other white Cadets never received. The work that

West Point does to uproot racism in comparison to what Cadets require to be anti-racist is utterly

insufficient.

14

“During the first few days of practice for the

NCAA swim team, a white friend was

discussing romantic interest in other Cadets.

She went out of her way to comment that she

would never date a Black Cadet because ‘their

skin feels disgusting’ to her.”

Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

I recognize that the responsibility of education in anti-racism falls on me as an individual. While I

own this personal failure, I would ask: Does West Point, as the preeminent leadership institution,

believe it is acceptable to allow their white graduates to fail in this way, while doing nothing to

uproot white supremacy in the Army’s future leaders?

West Point will continue to fail every member of the Army if it does not begin to educate its future

leaders on their responsibility not only to avoid overt and covert racism but to be actively anti-racist.

What the current moment has shown us is that the norm in white America is racism and the

supremacy of white citizens over Black citizens. Therefore, West Point must commit to unlearning

racism, learning how to identify racism on the individual and systemic level, equipping Cadets to be

allies, and making an inclusive space for Black Cadets in a pursuit of an anti-racist society.

I have a long way to go. The United States has a long way to go. Will West Point lead the way?

Call to Action: Intentionally Anti-Racist Curriculum

While the United States Military Academy considers itself an institution dedicated to commissioning

leaders of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, and Country, the current education

system does not bring this mission to

fruition. Being a “leader of character”

requires unlearning racism in all its

forms and actively opposing all types

of injustice. Yet, since 1802, West

Point has graduated “leaders of

character” who hold racist beliefs and

refuse to stand up to injustice. West

Point was not created for minorities or

women, but for white men, so all

development towards diversity that

fails to acknowledge the continued

systemic disparities is piecemeal.

Furthermore, the overt messaging that

the Army “does not see color” refuses

to acknowledge the very real

experiences of Black cadets who live

with the effects of discrimination and

prejudice.

This colorblindness manifests itself in

the core curriculum and renders

whiteness the default. The Army

values, without an anti-racist

foundation, are not enough to ensure

that Black cadets are treated with

respect. Not only do staff and faculty

often not understand or validate the

15

“I received A’s for my military development

grades, an A for my summer training grade,

and even the Recondo badge for

successfully completing many training tasks.

Military performance has always been my

strongest pillar. It therefore surprised me

when my squad leader told me my force

distributed grade for the detail. He said he



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Policy Proposal: An Anti-Racist West Point

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