A story about a racial slur scrawled on a message board outside the dorm room of an African-American student at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School went viral last month after the academy’s superintendent gave a rousing speech about “the power of diversity.”
That story, it turns out, was a hoax. An investigation by the academy found that one of the African-American cadets who reported the message wrote it himself.
A U.S. Air Force official said the student left the school this week, but did not specify whether he withdrew or was expelled. The student's name was not released.
An academy statement said, “We can confirm that one of the cadet candidates who was allegedly targeted by racist remarks written outside of their dorm room was actually responsible for the act. The individual admitted responsibility and this was validated by the investigation.”
Sources told The Colorado Springs Gazette that the student “committed the act in a bizarre bid to get out of trouble he faced at the school” for previous misconduct.
Over million views to response
On Sept. 27, five African-American cadets reported finding the racial slur written on a dry-erase board outside their dorm room.
In response to the incident, academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria gave an anti-racism speech that was shared widely on the internet and has been viewed more than 1 million times.
Silveria said he was “outraged” and encouraged cadets to pull their phones out and record what he called his most important thoughts on the subject.
“If you can't treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said.
The incident occurred at the dormitory housing students for the academy's preparatory school, which helps students prepare to meet the academy’s entrance requirements.
Silveria stands by speech
Silveria, on Wednesday, stood by his speech, arguing that it wasn’t important that the incident turned out to be a hoax.
“Regardless of the circumstances under which those words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed,” he said in a statement issued to VOA. “You can never over-emphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect and those who don’t understand those concepts, aren’t welcome here.”
Lt. Col. Allen Heritage, director of public affairs for the academy, told VOA Silveria had publicly touted the goal of growing the Academy’s culture of respect earlier in the school semester.
“If you want to find a red line with me, it will be in the area of respect and dignity,” Silveria told staff and faculty at a meeting in mid-August.
Carla Babb at the Pentagon contributed to this report.