NCIS finds sailor staged racist vandalism of own bunk

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has investigated a purported incident of racist vandalism of a black sailor's bunk and found that it was staged by the sailor himself.

The Navy Times reports (hat tip: Dennis Michael Lynch):

A sailor who claimed someone scrawled racial slurs on his bed aboard an aircraft carrier – sparking a viral Facebook post in the process – staged the incident himself, the Navy said Friday.

Marquie Little, a 27-year-old African American seaman, posted photos to Facebook on Nov. 15 under an alias that showed his rack on the carrier George H.W. Bush covered in trash and racial slurs.

"I proudly serve the Navy and this is what I'm receiving in return," he wrote in the post.

I note that the Facebook post linked just above has been either removed or made unavailable to the public.  But Little continues to maintain that his report is true:

Little denied staging the racist vandalism, and said Friday that NCIS had not done a proper investigation, but did not elaborate.

"And now I'm to be here looking like a bad guy for attention," Little wrote in a text message. "I have nothing to gain from doing such an incident but I have everything to lose."

Photo from Little's Facebook page before it was taken down.

And the Navy has announced that he will not be punished:

[Spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic Cmdr. Dave] Hecht declined to identify the sailor because he was not charged with a crime, but said the sailor had "received appropriate administrative actions and additional counseling and training."

"He will remain a member of the crew and continue to perform his military duties," Hecht said.

If the NCIS investigation is conclusive and yet Little continues to deny responsibility, how can he be relied upon to perform his duties faithfully?  I realize that we have an acute shortage of recruits, a result of the horrible way we have treated veterans and the stresses imposed by a never-ending war.

But I fear that fake hate crimes are not receiving the opprobrium they merit.  In my view, a fake hate crime is every bit as harmful as a real one, for it intensifies racial tensions quite deliberately.  And the legacy of shame and guilt over sins of past eras, as well as an awareness that racism has not completely vanished, has consequences:

Hecht said that, while the Navy had disproven the sailor's claims, it used the incident to provide additional crew training and reemphasize that vandalism and racism would not be tolerated. ...

Hecht said the carrier's command used the incident as an opportunity to reiterate that the command "has an open door policy for reporting incidents of misconduct."

There is evidence that fake hate crimes are a problem in the military:

The Navy incident follows another one this fall at the Air Force Academy preparatory school, where racial slurs were found written on the dorm message boards of five black cadet candidates.

The Air Force later said that one of those five black cadet candidates had admitted to writing the slurs.

If the NCIS is wrong, then a horrifying injustice has been done.  But unless Little can dispute those findings conclusively, if he refuses to apologize, he will be a ticking time bomb on board a carrier, a crowded hothouse where life-and-death risks are a daily matter.  An angry sailor maintaining that he was unjustly blamed while racists escaped punishment does not a happy and effective team member make.

Society needs to decide collectively that fake hate crimes are a serious problem that merit more than slap-on-the-wrist punishment like counseling.  Would a genuine perpetrator of a racist incident be treated with counseling?

If you experience technical problems, please write to