“It was a very deliberate choice to dig and to push on certain individuals compared with other cadets -- white cadets.”
Eight years after he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Geoffrey Easterling remains astonished by the Confederate history still memorialized on the storied academy’s campus – the six-foot-tall painting of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the library, the barracks dormitory named for Lee and the Lee Gate on Lee Road, the AP reports.
As a Black student at the Army academy, he remembers feeling “devastated” when a classmate pointed out the slave also depicted in the life-size Lee painting. “How did the only Black person who got on a wall in this entire humongous school — how is it a slave?” he recalls thinking.
As a diversity admissions officer, he later traveled the country recruiting students to West Point from underrepresented communities. “It was so hard to tell people like, ‘Yeah, you can trust the military,’ and then their kids Google and go ‘Why is there a barracks named after Lee?’” he said.
The nation’s military academies provide a key pipeline into the leadership of the armed services and, for the better part of the last decade, they have welcomed more racially diverse students each year. But beyond blanket anti-discrimination policies, these federally funded institutions volunteer little about how they screen for extremist or hateful behavior, or address the racial slights that some graduates of color say they faced daily.
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