Raised Fists by Black Women at West Point Deemed Not to Be a Political Protest
Filed in African-American History on May 13, 2016
A group of 16 Black women students set to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point came under criticism by posting a photograph of the group with raised fists. Some observers expressed the view that the photograph reminded them of th raised fist protest during the national anthem conducted by John Carlos and Tommie Smith on the medal platform at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. The two Black athletes were banned from the Olympic Village as the result of the protest.
But West Point officials maintain that the Black women did not violate any academy, Army, or Defense Department regulations. After an investigation, the academy stated that the raised fist gesture was intended to show unity and pride and was not meant as a political statement, which would have violated a Department of Defense directive.
But Lt. General Robert L. Caslen Jr., superintendent of the academy, stated that “as members of the Profession of Arms, we are held to a high standard, where our actions are constantly observed and scrutinized in the public domain. We all must understand that a symbol or gesture that one group of people may find harmless may offend others. As Army officers, we are not afforded the luxury of a lack of awareness of how we are perceived.”