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Racial slurs on Air Force Facebook group spark investigation

Airmen listen as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein speaks about current Air Force operations during an all-call at Shaw Air Force Base, May 30, 2017. During the all-call Airmen asked Goldfein questions about the current state of the Air Force and the direction the service is headed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado)

The Air Force is investigating after a Ramstein, Germany-based public affairs airman repeatedly posted a racial slur to a Facebook group for personnel at the headquarters of U.S. Forces Japan.

Senior Airman Elizabeth Baker called a person of Asian descent a “Ching Chong” several times in comments on YokotaTalk, which bills itself as a “place where current, past, and future residents of Yokota Air Base and surrounding Tokyo mingle, make friends, share stories and just have fun.”

Lt. Col. Joel Harper, public affairs chief for the Ramstein-based 86th Airlift Wing, called the incident “troubling” after screenshots of the slurs were reposted on another Facebook group.

“We will take appropriate action after reviewing the details of what happened,” he wrote in a post to the group. “There is no place in our Air Force for this — we are on it.”

Baker’s apparent target, German-Japanese-American Air Force spouse Elizabeth Faraone, told Stars and Stripes in an email that the slurs didn’t bother her much at first.

“However, I read deeper into the context of the message itself and it got me very concerned, almost frightened, that there are active duty service members stationed in Japan that show racial prejudice against local nationals,” she said.

Baker apologized after Faraone — who said she grew up at Yokota as an Air Force dependent and is now on Okinawa — posted screenshots of the slurs.

“I don’t actually have anything against Chinese or Japanese people … I do apologize, because now people actually [think] I mean something against them,” Baker wrote.

She posted a deeper apology Sunday: “I can’t believe the things I said last night. It was so backwards and ignorant. I can’t say how sorry I am to anyone of Asian descent. I don’t know how to describe how disappointed I am in myself. To anyone I hurt, please just know I’m so sorry. I disgraced my uniform and fellow Airmen and I’m sure I will pay dearly, as I deserve.”

Faraone said she found it hard to gauge the sincerity of the apology.

“Even after being confronted she held her stance on using the term ‘Ching Chong’ but it was only until after being reported she offered an apology,” she said.

Baker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Capt. Nate Roesler, public affairs chief for Yokota’s 374th Airlift Wing, confirmed in an email Monday that Baker had worked there until mid-2017.

“The 374th Airlift Wing does not condone acts or words of a discriminatory nature,” he said. “That type of behavior is clearly wrong and detracts from our ability to accomplish our mission.


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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