Jun 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

First observant Sikh cadet graduates from West Point

West Point graduates lined up while wearing masks

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Anmol Narang on Saturday became the first observant Sikh to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in its 218-year history, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Narang's commencement comes as the U.S. military continues to struggle with racism across its branches. Roughly 43% of the 1.3 million active duty officers in the military are people of color, while two of the 41 most senior commanders in the military are black, per the Times.

  • West Point says it is making more of an effort to recruit minority students. Last year's graduating class was the school's most diverse, though still predominantly white and male.

Worth noting: The military largely prohibits its members from wearing turbans, unshorn hair or beards, with the exception of the Army and Air Force. All of which are symbols or articles of faith for Sikhs, the Times writes.

  • Simratpal Singh, a Sikh, graduated from West Point and previously sued the Defense Department after he was forced to trim his hair and beard as a student. Singh said it caused him "significant shame" and he eventually received an accommodation to serve while wearing a turban and beard, per the Times.

What to watch: Another two practicing Sikh cadets are behind Narang at West Point.

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