Cadets' Raised-Fist Photo Sparks Anger, Debate

Some say West Point seniors made political statement
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2016 1:40 PM CDT
Cadets' Raised-Fist Photo Sparks Anger, Debate
The photo of senior, black female cadets at West Point military academy that's sparked debate.   (YouTube)

Were cadets raising their fists to sisterhood, Beyonce, Black Lives Matter—or just taking pride in their pending graduation? A photo of 16 black female cadets raising their fists in traditional military dress at West Point was posted online in April, sparking debate and spurring the military academy to investigate, CBS News reports. Some say the cadets are clearly allying with Black Lives Matter and breaking an Army rule against political activities in uniform. The photo is "completely unprofessional," writes Iraq veteran and blogger John Burk in a post that's gotten some attention on Facebook. He adds that Black Lives Matter is "known for inflicting violent protest throughout various parts of the United States, calling for the deaths of police officers, and even going so far as to call for the deaths of white Americans."

But West Point graduate Mary Tobin says she talked to some of the cadets, who are upset by the controversy and see it differently: "That fist to them meant you and your sisters did what only a few people, male or female, have ever done in this country," she tells the New York Times. (Historically, the raised fist has been used by groups ranging from suffragists to labor unions to the Black Panthers, the Army Times notes.) Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter organizer Jonathan Pulphus says fist-raising by blacks is a way to acknowledge civil-rights advances and make "a space for themselves in institutions where they tend to not have a sense of belonging." Failure to realize this, he adds, would cost West Point black applicants. As for the cadets in the photo, they're still slated to graduate on May 21 from the mostly white, male military academy. (More West Point stories.)

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