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The photo of female black West Point cadets with raised fists

Posted by John Reed on

I have been asked what I think about the 17 black female West Point cadets who were photographed holding their fists up.

They are wearing white collars from the 1800s. I am told doing that is a new “tradition” at all-tradition-all-the-time West Point. I don’t get the white collars or dressing up in a no-longer-used uniform. But it seems harmless. They are also wearing saber belts that were only worn for marching into weekday meals last I was plugged into the routine.

As far as the fists, it all comes down to intent. I do not know what their intent was. Maybe they will say truthfully if asked. In the past, you could trust cadets to be truthful. Maybe you still can. I have received mixed signals about recent adherence to the Cadet Honor Code.

Maybe their cadet friends can say what they intended.

No whites need apply

I do not like a photo where the criterion for inclusion was gender/skin color, no matter what their intent. If 17 white people were in a graduating class at black Howard University, I doubt they would gather for a photo or that if they did that it would not raise eyebrows.

If there is racial or political aspect to the fists, it’s improper. If there was not, it’s just some 21-year-old girls not realizing it could be misinterpreted.
She also complains of “microaggression” against blacks at West Point. I had wondered if the college kids at West Point had fallen under the spell of that BS. The answer is yes, or at least the blacks.
Fred Johnson Can you include Mary Tobin's "piece?" Well said, Jack.
John T. Reed I do not care for Ms. Tobin’s take.

As for the the fists, the 17 women need to explain what it meant.

Poor babies having to put up with West Point racism

As far as the photo containing only black females, her article made it worse. She essentially justifies that based on the implicit notion that West Point is still racist and anti-black—which it clearly was in the 1800s and until maybe World War II. 

If I were black, went to West Point, and found it to be racist, I would leave. Shame on these women for staying at such a place. They should now either submit their evidence that West Point is illegally anti-black or be punished for slandering it. I predict the Army will sweep it under the carpet and do nothing. They were already doing that for black misbehavior in the early 1970s when I got out of the Army.

The not-yet-grad pontificating on what it’s like to be a grad

I also think Ms. Tobin is wrong on her analysis of the value of the West Point education on the post-West Point life of the graduate. For one thing, she is apparently a cadet or very recent graduate, so what would she know about the post-West Point life of a graduate? Yet she pontificates repeating the myths I often hear from cadets, young grads, or prospective cadets.

We’re Number One!

Here’s a quote from her:
“In its 214 years of existence, as the premiere leadership institution in the world...”
That statement is so far off the truth that it can fairly be called a lie. Tobin apparently heard it repeatedly, wants to believe it, is not a journalist who has learned to check her facts, so she chose not only to believe it, but to repeat it.

Coach K and who else?

The only living evidence that it is true is the Duke basketball coach and if only one grad of West Point, out of maybe 45,000 living grads, can be cited as evidence to support the claim, then the “premiere leadership institution in the world” claim is false.
In the case of Coach K, since he is the only living WP grad having such success coaching at the NCAA or pro level, it would appear that the proper conclusion to draw is that he became a great coach because he played for, and later coached under, Bobby Knight, not because he went to WP.

She says West Point grads run the world. They wish. Please name the ones running the US at present. Never mind, I’ll do it for you. Coach K (’69) is the Duke basketball coach and Jack Reed (’71) is a US Senator. I was his First Beast platoon sergeant in July 1967. (

Thus endeth the list. I am not aware of any other West Pointer “running the world.” I believe some recent CEOs like 7/11, P&G, and Johnson & Johnson were WP grads.

If you want to see colleges whose alumni ARE running the world, see Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. West Point is not fourth.
West Point is not in the top 38 and not 39th either. I don’t know where they rank.

My article “Should you go to, or stay at, West Point?” tries to precisely and comprehensively describe the advantages and disadvantages of going there.

The title-of-my-article question requires a very complex answer. Ms.Tobin lacks the objectivity, experience, and research to answer it.
Mark Christoph That is what I gathered from Ms Tobin's post - that the black women were celebrating overcoming the racist establishment that is West Point and how horrible it was for them and not so much for everyone else who is not black ("you didn't go through what we went through").
She seemed to be coming from the perspective that the whole place was a racist obstacle to be overcome and how virtuous and tough she was that she did, having to "shrink her blackness" because nobody could relate to her or understand her, since she was apparently the first black person many of them had ever seen. ??
Was she from Mars? Speak the Xhosa clicking language? Whatever happened to MLKs color-blind society of just being fellow Americans? It sounds like she deliberately makes it harder in this constant "I'm black you're not" separation.
That's just the way i read it. She closes with "We have the opportunity to have a REAL discussion about race and culture" - I don't think she really wants that discussion, because it seems to me the "us vs. them" is a big part of her life. She seems to revel in the struggle.
John T. Reed: This is like the opposite end of the spectrum for us old grads of West Point. From 1964 to 1968 when I was there, the whole point of West Point was to stop the “aggressors.” In all our field exercises, the enemy were called “the aggressors.” It was well understood they were Soviet soldiers.
They had AKs, T-64 tanks, and nukes. If I or any other classmate had ever complained about “microaggression” of the type Tobin is now whining about, when the upperclassmen got done laughing, they would have run me out of West Point. Hell, my own classmates would have run me out for that!
It is a measure of how far the U.S. military has fallen from its original mission that were NOT supposed to worry about fighting in World War III against the Soviets, but current cadets are entitled to whine about “microaggressions.”
Preview of my novel The Unelected President: President “Mike Medlock” wants VICTORS, NOT VICTIMS, in his military. Mary Tobin is a victim. She also claims membership in the Long Gray Line. Here is a sacred West Point song we had to memorize about that Line:
The Corps! The Corps! The Corps!
The Corps! Bareheaded salute it, with eyes up thanking our God
That we of the Corps are treading where they of the Corps have trod.
They are here in ghostly assemblage, the men of the Corps long dead.
And our hearts are standing attention, while we wait for their passing tread.
We men of today, we salute you, you men of an earlier day.
We follow close order behind you where you have pointed the way.
The long gray line of us stretches through the years of a cent’ry told.
And the last one feels to the marrow the grip of your far-off hold.
Grip hands with us now tho’ we see not.
Grip hands with us strengthen our hearts.
As the long line stiffens and straightens with the thrill that your presence imparts.
Grip hands, tho’ it be from the shadows while we swear as you did of yore,
Or living or dying to honor The Corps! and the Corps! and the Corps!
Note that there is not one damned word in there about being a victim.
West Point old grads are famous for the phrase “The Corps has” which is short for “The Corps of Cadets [student body] has gone to hell.” In the dictionary of West Point words and phrases, Mary Tobin’s picture ought to be next to that definition.
And yet the Academy continuously asks us grads for donations—to pay for the “stuff cadets need” that the government does not pay for—an ever-expanding amount as Obama cuts the military budget again and again.
I am more inclined to give to some school dedicated to what America’s about, like Hillsdale College. They get none of my tax money for anything.

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