Illustration for article titled South Carolina State Rep. Apologizes for Accusing Military Cadets of Using White Power Hand Signs
Photo: Associated Press

South Carolina state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, a Democrat from Lancaster, issued an apology Monday after an internal military investigation concluded that the hand signals flashed by a group of cadets during the Dec. 14 Army-Navy game were not white nationalist symbols.

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Norrell’s initial—now deleted—tweets accused the cadets of fueling a “cruel and disrespectful environment.” She posted a copy of her formal apology to her Twitter account, writing, “Not because of threats and harassment from Twitter trolls, but because it’s the right thing to do,” The State reports.

Really? Public pressure didn’t influence her? We can trust this internal investigation because the military is known for outing their own instead of protecting them? The military has been a safe haven for people of color and women since its inception?

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If the investigation was legitimate and the cadets are innocent, then an apology is in order. But there are so many factors that make us question the military’s conclusion:

  • Exhibit A - As The Root previously reported, a 2019 survey conducted by Military Times showed that “22 percent of enlisted members have seen signs of white nationalism in the armed forces and half of non-white service members have experienced encounters with racism and those who hold racist ideologies.”
  • Exhibit B - The Root also reported that against all common sense, a measure in the National Defense Authorization Act supposedly designed to better screen white nationalist military enlistees has removed the word “white nationalist’ from the screening process.
  • Exhibit C - The history of racism in the military against people of color, women, and particularly black women is too extensive to list here. We need not look any further than the discrimination against our natural hair to see that.

I appreciate Norrell’s initial questions around the incident, and I encourage other national leaders to keep lookin’ out for us, because the one thing that’s certain amidst this incident and its aftermath is that history’s receipts show we can’t trust the military to look out for us.

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