An email from an Air Force Academy sergeant to his cadets raised the racism flag on Wednesday.
Master Sgt. Zachary Parish wrote a complaint about cadets’ untrimmed haircuts not complying with AFA regulations, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. He then tried to tell students that basketball legend Michael Jordan had good grooming habits and always appeared well put together in public. But Parish couldn’t make his point with relying on several microaggressions, including pointing out that Jordan refrained from wearing a “gaudy chain around his neck.”
“He [Jordan] was never seen with a gaudy chain around his neck, his pants below his waistline, or with a backwards baseball hat on during public appearances,” Parish wrote.
Whether intentional or unintentional, a microaggression is always taken as a derogatory message. In this case, the sergeant’s words are a clear insult directed at African Americans…and folks have good reason to be outraged over microaggressive statements like Parish’s.
Considering the backlash, the school pulled the standard move by apologizing for the incident and issuing a statement on teaching racial sensitivity. But, the drama didn’t end there.
Col. Julian Stevens, vice commandant of cadets at the academy, emailed a rebuke of Parish’s words and defined microaggressions. Stevens wrote, “Microagressions such as these are often blindspots/unintentional biases that are not often recognized, and if they are recognized they are not always addressed.”
Both emails found their way to a Facebook group full of Air Force sergeants, who were upset about the colonel showing “oversensitivity” to Black folks. Stevens was also criticized by the academy for speaking out of turn.
With the backlash, Stevens, at least, said something instead of being silent on the matter. Yes, he used privilege to point out that Parish’s statements were utterly wrong—and racist. But the real wrong was committed by Parish in making those offensive comments.
It’s worth noting that Parish’s email happened at the same time as Air Force Academy Superintendent and Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria publishing an open letter about why diversity matters at the AFA on CNN.
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