The United States continues to grapple with the problem of violent racism, but it’s not just President Donald Trump’s doing. A photo surfaced recently showing a group of trainees for the West Virginia state Department of Corrections making a Hitler salute, and now, every one of the students (otherwise known as cadets) and five additional corrections academy staff members have been fired. Their dismissal was approved by the state’s Republican Governor Jim Justice himself — in other words, karma came big time for those who participated, and they’re not about to erase this specter.
Justice signed off on the dismissals after a report about the incident from the state’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety’s Secretary Jeff Sandy. The governor — who’s a Trump supporter, ironically — commented:
‘As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class 18 in the strongest possible terms. I also said that this act needed to result in real consequences – terminations and dismissals. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of State government. We have a lot of good people in our Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. But this incident was completely unacceptable. Now, we must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.’
Apparently, the class’s main instructor — who’s identified in a report simply by their last name “Byrd” — was the mastermind behind the Hitler salute’s display and the photographs, which were taken repeatedly as more and more students participated. When pressed by investigators, Instructor Byrd claimed she wasn’t aware of the violently racist implications of the gesture, which is an absolutely outlandish considering how brazen it is. Has she lived under a rock her entire life? That’s the implication of what she was trying to run with.
In reality, the photo itself has the phrase “Hail Byrd” in the background. There is nowhere else in the entirety of anything to use as a basis for that salute coupled with “Hail __.” Her playing dumb is outlandish. Authorities explained:
‘The investigation disclosed that she encouraged it, reveled in it, and at times reciprocated the gesture. Additionally, Byrd appeared to overrule the corrective actions taken by others and assured the cadets the behavior was acceptable.’
They even had a quote acknowledging the comfort with racist violence from Byrd herself, who said:
‘That’s why they do that because I’m a hard-ass like Hitler.’
This incident is not the first recent occasion on which members of law enforcement or the military have been kicked out over ties to this kind of violent racism. Recently, two members of the National Guard were kicked out over their membership in a racist neo-pagan group, and shortly before that, a Colorado member of the Air Force also faced termination over a revelation of their organizing work for a different racist group.
Trump has routinely failed to rise to the occasion of actually dealing with these issues. His incessant antagonism of marginalized communities encourages it.