The Air Force Preparatory Academy Hate Crime Hoax and the Power of the Outlier

Racial slurs found written on the doors of five black cadets at the Air Force Preparatory Academy in September turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by one of them. The student wrote “Go home n—–” in black marker across the message boards of his peers. The graffiti was met with swift denunciation by Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria. In a publicly lauded speech to the school’s cadets, Silveria warned, “If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.” This month, the Preparatory Academy announced that the student has left the school after admitting to the vandalism.

As this scandal fades from the public mind, its underlying issue only grows stronger. People of color who partake in racist sentiment are even worse than their white counterparts. Though the immorality of betraying one’s own is not unfounded, the problem does not lie there. No member of society, regardless of skin color, can feign to misunderstand the concept of racial equality. To direct additional condemnation at this cadet would be excusing similar actions by people who are not black. Rather, such action by people of color is toxic to society for its predictable repercussions.

Any blip in racial unity is seized by the far right as evidence of a lack of racism on their part and even, conversely, as a leftist attack on them. They claim that the media makes false implications against them while the real enemy of American ideals is the left themselves. A recent article about fake KKK graffiti at Eastern Michigan University from the conservative Breitbart News commented, “Naturally, the university launched a series of programs assuming that the perpetrator of the incidents was a white racist […] Although the suspect is black, the school has vowed to continue its renewed diversity programs.” Divisive and blatantly racist implications like this are not only echoed by some conservatives, they are absorbed by the masses. Fake hate crimes invite agencies like Breitbart News to reinforce prejudice in the common people.

As a result, legitimate hate crimes are questioned and political divides deepen. As the media keeps up with the latest developments in controversies surrounding hoaxes, the pranks receive undue coverage and the public is presented with a distorted evaluation of hate crimes in the United States. In reality, hate crimes have increased by 20 percent in major US cities and 5 percent nationally. A newly released FBI report shows there were over 6,100 reported hate crimes in 2016 compared with 5,800 in 2015. Of these, 55 percent were motivated by anti-Semitism and 25 percent by anti-Muslim sentiment, with 46 percent of perpetrators being white. In addition, 1,600 hate crimes involved vandalism or destruction of property, as fabricated at the Air Force Preparatory Academy. At this crucial time in politics, it is imperative that Americans understand the nation’s ideals dictate that the real crime is not lost. We cannot allow white radical conservatives nor people of color to corrupt our aspirations for America.



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