The Red Line

It’s no secret that I take a hard stance on discriminatory and hateful behavior on our server. My policy and the community guidelines for this sort of thing has always been one of zero tolerance. Somehow, the people in my country after decades of forward progress in recognizing the need for respect and dignity at all levels of society have been taking massive strides backward in this area recently. The United States Air Force Academy, near my home, is one place I never expected to hear of such backward steps. Recently, several black cadets had racist graffiti placed on or at their doors, using some of the same symbolism and language that I have banned on our server. In response to the actions of some misguided cadets, the academy Superintendent, Lt. General Jay Silveria had very wise words of leadership in response to the use of hate speech to describe people on his campus. His comments were prescient enough that I feel they bear sharing here:

…The appropriate response for horrible language and horrible ideas, the appropriate response is a BETTER idea, so that’s why I’m here.

I’ve said it before: the area of dignity and respect is my red line. Let me be clear, it won’t be crossed without significant repercussions. If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place. That kind of behavior has no place at the prep school, it has no place at USAFA (US Air Force Academy) and it has no place in the United States Air Force. You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being. We would be naive to think we shouldn’t discuss the topic. We’d also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country. Things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protests in the NFL. What we should have is a civil discourse, and talk about these issues. That’s a better idea.

I also have a better idea, and it’s about our diversity. And it’s the power of diversity… the power of us as a diverse group. The power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, all backgrounds, gender, all makeup, all upbringings. The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. That’s a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas.

We have an opportunity here to think about what we are as an institution. This is our institution and no one can take away our values. No one can write on a board and question our values. No one can take that away from us. I call upon you all to find the moral courage to stand up for those values.

So just in case you’re unclear on where I stand on this topic, I’m going to leave you with my most important thought today. If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race, or a different color of skin, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. So that we all have the moral courage, this is OUR institution, and if you need it and you need my words, then you keep these words and you use them and you remember them and you share them and you talk about them:

If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”

There isn’t much I could possibly add to the General’s words. Everything he says there applies to our community values here, and does a much better job of capturing and explaining what these values are about than I ever could. He speaks of appropriate responses. I live a life of disproportionate responses. I think he does a much better job of making this sensible and relatable than I could, but at the end of the day, our messages are the same.

If your humor includes making someone less so that you amuse yourself, it is not humor. If your language makes someone less than human to lift yourself up, it is not protected language. If your opinions and ideas include the idea that somehow someone is superior or has more of a right to play this game or use this server because of race, gender, religion, orientation, handicap, or any other misplaced notion of superiority, your opinion is wrong. As the General so perfectly pointed out:

If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.

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