Michelle Tan, Army Times, March 19, 2015
The Army is investigating allegations that a platoon of soldiers was given a free pass to use racial slurs against each other during what was known as “Racial Thursdays.”
The soldiers belong to 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, according to a member of the unit who spoke to Army Times.
The battalion belongs to the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
“When I first got to my unit, someone said we should do ‘Racial Thursdays’ because it’s been a tradition,” said the soldier, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s something they made up where you can say any racist remark you want without any consequences. The platoon sergeant said no, but the shit is still going on.”
The soldier, a staff sergeant, added: “It’s degrading to the soldiers. We’ve had soldiers almost fight over the crap that’s going on here.”
The NCO, who is black, said no one has directed any racial slurs towards him because he made it clear he would not participate or put up with the practice.
But he also said he felt compelled to bring the issue to the media because the unit “has a bad habit of sweeping things under the rug.”
U.S. Army Alaska initiated a commander’s inquiry into the allegations late last week, said Lt. Col. Alan Brown, a spokesman for the command.
The unit where “Racial Thursdays” allegedly took place is the same unit that Pvt. Danny Chen belonged to.
Chen, who belonged to C Company, committed suicide Oct. 3, 2011, while deployed to Afghanistan. Authorities said Chen killed himself because he was hazed over his Chinese ancestry.
Chen was called names while in training, then was subjected to hazing after he was deployed to Afghanistan, according to his family. On the day of his death, Chen was forced to crawl about 100 yards across gravel carrying his equipment while his fellow soldiers threw rocks at him, the family said.
At least eight soldiers were either court-martialed or administratively punished in the case.
“There is absolutely no connection between this current investigation and the case of Pvt. Danny Chen,” Brown said. “Treating all soldiers with dignity and respect is something this command takes extremely seriously, and when there are any indications that those values are not being followed, the command will absolutely make inquiries, conduct appropriate investigations and take action as necessary.”
The NCO who spoke to Army Times said he filed an equal opportunity complaint against his platoon leader, who allegedly encouraged “Racial Thursdays” as a way to build morale and camaraderie.