Two Black cadets and the struggle for diversity at an elite U.S. military institution

Pale marble pavers crisscross the Terrazzo, the plaza at the heart of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado that cadets traverse daily, on the way to class, the library and meals. In their first year, cadets must run and keep to the narrow marble strips whenever they are on the 20-acre Terrazzo.

Tusajigwe Owens doesn’t take short cuts. He is one of 112 Black cadets in the class of 1,071 freshmen that started at the academy in June 2022.

Running the strips helps instill a sense of urgency and attention to detail that “absolutely matters for the success of yourself and the success of your team,” he said.

Older cadets share coping strategies such as organizing schedules to minimize Terrazzo trips, or walking when the marble is slippery in wet weather. “They would rather see you succeed,” Owens said.

Not everyone will. The graduation rate for Black cadets has for the last decade averaged 66%, compared to an overall graduation rate of 80%.

Read in Reuters


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