This lieutenant general's incredible speech against racism is a must-watch.

After black cadets were targeted with racial slurs, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria took a bold stand.

U.S. Air Force Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria has responded to an incident of racial harassment on campus with a powerful message.

Days after news reports surfaced about five black cadets being targeted with racial slurs on dorm room message boards, Silveria delivered a speech to roughly 5,500 cadets, airmen, and academy staff. He set out to make it clear that what happened was unacceptable and, in the process, demonstrated how leaders should address acts of hate aimed at marginalized groups.  

In his five-minute speech, Silveria highlighted diversity as a source of power and strength within the academy and urged cadets to uphold its values.

Race relations in the U.S. aren't exactly in a great place right now, and too often, bigotry is going unchecked. Racism isn't an issue we can afford to ignore, even if it means having some very uncomfortable conversations.


"You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being." All GIFs from KOAA5/YouTube.

"We would be naive to think that we shouldn’t discuss this topic," Silveria told the crowd. "We would also be tone-deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country. Things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protests in the NFL."

"This is our institution and no one can take away our values."

"We come from all walks of life," he said, "that we come from all parts of this county, that we come from all races, we come from all backgrounds, gender, all makeup, all upbringing. The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful."

It's in closing that Silveria made his most powerful point, asking the cadets in the room to pull out their phones so they could capture it on video.

"Just in case you're unclear on where I stand on this topic," he went on (emphasis added), "I'm going to leave you my most important thought today: If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."

"If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."

"If you can't treat someone from another gender, whether that's a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can't treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."

We still have a long way to go. This is just a start.

To be sure, there were plenty of valid criticisms of the speech. Jason Johnson at The Root criticized Silveria for "removing a 'problem' as opposed to eradicating it," and pointing to a number of fairly recent incidents that suggest the military doesn't have a handle on equality quite yet.

"It’s akin to finding out there is a serial rapist on campus and saying, 'This campus has no place for rapists, they must go!'" wrote Johnson. "Thanks, but maybe you should prosecute them too?"

With those points in mind, it's on all of us to push back on bigotry, discrimination, and marginalization in society. It's on all of us to help make the world a more just place for people of all backgrounds to live, work, and thrive.

Watch Silveria's speech below. It's worth seeing in its entirety.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

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Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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