West Point Officials have announced on Tuesday that the 16 black female cadets that raised their fists for a photograph while in uniform will face no punitive action.
West Point concluded that the photograph was not a political statement and did not violate any regulations, but in fact was a message of unity and pride.
The image was taken during an “Old Corps” photoshoot tradition where students take pictures that resemble poses of 19th century cadets that attended West Point.
“We all must understand that a symbol or gesture that one group of people may find harmless may offend others. As Army officers, we are not afforded the luxury of a lack of awareness of how we are perceived,” said academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., in a letter.
When the photograph went viral online, the cadets were accused of making a political statement while in uniform which would violate Defense Department regulations. Some of the public associated the photo with the Black Lives Matter movement since the women can be seen raising their fists, which is considered a symbol of the movement.
“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,” Caslen wrote in the letter.
Two cadets reportedly involved in the photo proposed the “raising fists” pose while another two were weary of the implications of the stance. One of the cadets defended the pose and said “this isn’t an (equal opportunity) violation and we won’t get in trouble for it.”
“As members of the Profession of Arms, we are held to a high standard, where our actions are constantly observed and scrutinized in the public domain,” Caslen said.
Prior to graduation, all 16 cadets will receive additional counseling.
Carlsen noted that in recent times, cadets clenching their fists has been a way to display pride for the nation and the Army.
The investigator for the incident recommended in his memo, “all future ‘Old Corps’ photographs be reviewed by the West Point public affairs office prior to release to any cadet or outside agency.”
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