The United States Military Academy at West Point has launched a formal investigation into a photo that surfaced last week depicting 16 black female cadets in uniform and raising their clenched fists. The photo, known as an “Old Corps” because it gives a nod to historical photos and is one that generations of students have recreated, was posted on Twitter and Facebook last week. It was met by critics who saw it as a violation of military rules that prohibit soldiers and cadets from making political statements while in uniform. The clenched fist gesture was perceived as a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Unlike most American college campuses, where political demonstrations are welcomed and common, West Point goes out of its way to prevent them, instead pursuing a campus culture where “everyone is green.”
However, at West Point the gender and racial demographics are quite imbalanced. The student body is overwhelmingly male, according to The New York Times, and 70 percent white. The 16 women seen in the photo are all but one of the female African-American cadets on track to graduate this year. And the apparent political statement has stirred up tensions on campus and off. Iraq war veterans who have seen the photo worry that it shows the cadets’ allegiance to a group that they say has used violence to further its agenda. But those who talked with the women in the photo say the clenched fists are not a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter at all. “These ladies weren’t raising their fist to say Black Panthers,” Mary Tobin, a 2003 West Point grad and an a veteran of the Iraq War told the Times. Tobin, who is a mentor to some of the seniors and has discussed the controversial image with them, said the clenched fists were actually meant to pay tribute to a pop star who’s been making headlines lately.
Read the full story at The New York Times.