West Point has ruled that a photo featuring 16 black female cadets with their fists raised in the air, a symbol actively used by Black Lives Matter, was not political, although it was “inappropriate.”
Given the decision, these cadets won’t face any punitive action, aside from a little bit of counseling before they graduate, Army Times reports.
The photo, taken April 26, first drew controversy because it shows these black female cadets women raising their fists at a time when the symbol has regained prominence, having been adopted by the nascent Black Lives Matter movement. Even before BLM came about, the symbol has strong roots in the far-left political scene, namely in socialist and labor groups.
Cadets participating in political activity while in uniform is expressly forbidden by Department of Defense regulations, but the memo released on the investigation, which began April 28, states that no evidence exists to indicate that a raised fist is a political activity.
“While the inquiry did not find that these cadets violated a policy or regulation, it did determine that they demonstrated a lapse of awareness in how symbols and gestures can be misinterpreted and cause division,” West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen said in a letter, according to Army Times. “The impact of this photo, regardless of its intent, is evident. It is unfortunate that this perception brought attention to our Alma Mater for all the wrong reasons.”
The Washington Post’s editorial board also recently wrote an op-ed saying the photo is nothing more than a symbol of pride and hinted that if they weren’t black women, they wouldn’t have been criticized so vehemently.
“The only thing we can see in the picture is a group of strong, confident young women enjoying their moment in the sun,” the editorial board wrote. The board believes the photo shows nothing more than fist pumping.
“If a group of white cadets had posed in the same position, there would be no controversy,” the board added.
Meanwhile, those inside West Point who objected to what they saw as the obvious political nature of the photo had to leak it anonymously for fear of being dragged before a “respect board” if they raised concerns under their own name.
“We can get kicked out of West Point, or forced to repeat years for what is called a “respect board.” They can be given for just making someone upset, so no one wants to get kicked out of college and lose their commission over something like this, especially since a white man, in this situation, is already at a disadvantage when a conversation like this starts. It’s purely political,” a source inside West Point said.
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