NEW LONDON - A white cadet played a racially offensive song in the room of an African-American classmate, prompting a criminal investigation, the superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy said Monday.
The black cadet told the other student he thought the song was racist, and left to tell a peer counselor about it, Superintendent Rear Adm. James Rendon said at an academy-wide meeting. The black cadet returned to find the background screen on his computer had been changed to show the Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag, Rendon said.
The Coast Guard Investigative Service is conducting a criminal inquiry. The academy also will conduct an investigation under the Coast Guard's anti-discrimination policies, an academy spokesman said.
Rendon said he felt angry and disgusted.
“We are a humanitarian service with a mission to help others,” Rendon said at the meeting called to address the incident. “How in the world can we do that if some of you can't even respect and take care of each other, right here?”
Rendon did not name the song played by the white cadet, but he said it romanticizes “a world in which the South won the Civil War” and is widely considered offensive. He said the black cadet took his classmate's actions as offensive and intimidating.
The encounter Thursday between the two cadets came only hours after the commandant of cadets met with the entire student body to discuss a springtime incident that involved the display of the Confederate flag.
“She told you that context matters, but because something is legal doesn't make it right,” Rendon said.
About 1,000 cadets are enrolled at the academy in New London. Cadets graduate with a commitment to serve five years in the Coast Guard.