In an email that may have been better left unsent, one Air Force Academy sergeant has received backlash over the choice of words he used when reprimanding cadets.
Master Sgt. Zachary Parish is now facing pressure for what many are deeming “microaggressions” in an email he sent out Wednesday that called out cadets for not adhering to the strict U.S. Air Force regulations on appearance — namely their hair.
According to The Washington Examiner, as top enlisted airman over the cadet wing, Parish wanted to see to it that regulations were followed for cadets to keep their hair trimmed at all times — a common admonition among enlisted leaders.
However, in the email, Parish took things one step further as he illustrated the supposed similarities between those regulations and NBA great Michael Jordan.
“He was never seen with a gaudy chain around his neck, his pants below his waistline, or with a backwards baseball hat on during public appearances,” Parish wrote in his email.
“It’s unfortunate that a small percentage of cadets who fail to maintain their hair appropriately cast a negative impression that’s reflected on the entire … cadet population and armed service members at large,” he added.
The email eventually was posted to Facebook, where both criticism of Parish’s words and those that agreed with him, were rampant.
Many drew a similarity between the sergeant’s words and racism, stating that the language was a “swipe” at African-Americans.
As the email began making rounds and garnering more attention, Col. Julian Stevens, who is a vice-commandant of cadets at the academy, rebuked Parish’s words, replying with an email of his own.
“Microaggressions such as these are often blindspots/unintentional biases that are not often recognized,” Stevens wrote. “And if they are recognized they are not always addressed.”
“Let me apologize for the email sent earlier today by our first sergeant,” he added. “The comments were very disrespectful, derogatory and in no way reflective of (cadet wing) permanent party views.”
However, another spat of rebukes waited — this time for Stevens — as his responding email hit Facebook, angering those who deemed his apology as a form of “oversensitivity.”
“This is a perfect example of why we’re going to lose a war with Russia/China,” one commenter wrote, with many reflecting those same sentiments.
However, the academy refuses to back down, no matter who agrees or disagrees with Parish and Stevens, responding with a message of their own.
“The comments were inappropriate,” the academy stated in an email. “We have a responsibility for how we communicate and if anyone feels disrespected by someone’s words, we take that very seriously.”
“We need to take responsibility immediately and learn from it as we move forward.”
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