Adm. Michael Gilday has refused to pull anti-white books from the U.S. Navy reading list, reports Fox News, despite pressure from House Republicans. Several members of Congress, most of them veterans, sent Gilday a letter objecting to the inclusion of these extremist works on the military’s recommended list.
Gilday essentially told these elected officials who oversee his service to take a hike, saying that adding the racially divisive works was the result of military leadership’s attempts “to identify and remove racial barriers, improve inclusion efforts, create new opportunities for professional development and eliminate obstacles to enter the Navy.”
“While I do not endorse every viewpoint of the books on this reading list, I believe exposure to varied ideas improves the critical thinking skills of our sailors,” Gilday wrote. “My commitment to them is to continue to listen, make sure their voice is heard, and make the Navy a shining example of an organization centered on respect, inclusive of all.”
The Navy list in question includes the notorious critical race theory bestseller “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, as well as “Sexual Minorities and Politics,” by Jason Pierceson, “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander, and the feminist screed “Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward,” by Gemma Hartley.
The reading list, “a long-standing tradition that curates suggested readings for all members of the Navy, has a stated aim of educating and training the sailors that compose this branch of the Armed Forces,” writes Roger Maxwell at National Review. Maxwell notes that Kendi’s book claims “capitalism is essentially racist” and advocates for a constitutional amendment that would undo the rest of the Constitution, and that Pierceson’s book falsely argues that differences in crime rates among various races are due exclusively to racism.
“The New Jim Crow” argues it’s racist to apply penalties to people based on equal application of the laws. It instead advocates for adjusting criminal penalties based on skin color, which currently would mean punishing white and Asian people more harshly than black and Hispanic people for the same crimes. All the books about race espouse negative views exclusively applied to people with paler skin than others.
These kinds of books are also in use at U.S. military academies. West Point assigns multiple critical race theory works to American military officers in training. West Point would not answer inquiries about whether it balances these selections with counterpoints such as those written by race scholars Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell.
Contrary to Gilday’s assertions that the Navy list aims to develop “critical thinking,” which is best achieved with a study of multiple viewpoints about a subject, the list appears to be similarly biased. It includes several extremist books from the political left but no books from the political right — unless you consider the moderate New York Times columnist David Brooks’s nonpolitical book “The Road to Character” a counterbalance to multiple critical race theory extremist screeds.
Now, as Mark Hemingway pointed out in these pages several months ago, there is true value in everyone of mature mind reading these far-left bestsellers. They are part of the public conversation and an increasingly major part of public life. Just for that reason, they deserve to be read.
The question, however, is in what context the U.S. military places such works in its guidance to soldiers charged with defending a nation these works allege is disgustingly infested with structural racism. It is also about whether the U.S. military advances these works while failing to equally present alternative and competing views.
As Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly asked in an article noting the infection of critical race theory into military training with no counterpoint materials provided, “is ‘White Fragility’ part of a fair discussion featuring numerous competing views, or is it the flagship book of an indoctrination session for an insidious new leftist ideology?” Congress should find out.
Congress should not ban books. Soldiers and everyone else should be reading “The Communist Manifesto” and thinking through how its ideas led to the mass murder of tens of millions across the globe. They should be doing the same with “Mein Kampf.” In that spirit, there is a legitimate place for reading Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist,” even if you think he’s a racist grifter — perhaps especially if you think that.
Yet it is a legitimate public interest to conduct oversight into to what extent critical race ideology is being implemented, rather than critiqued and combatted, in public institutions such as the U.S. military. There is good evidence that taxpayer resources and public institutions are being used, not to encourage “critical thinking” or combat racism, but to spread neoracism. Congress has the legal and moral authority and duty to ensure that U.S. military (and other public) institutions are not spreading racism with tax dollars.
It’s time for Congress to use its powers to compel military academies to divulge their reading lists and publish any recordings of COVID-era Zoom lectures given to future military officers on these subjects. Members of Congress should demand and publish PowerPoints, lesson plans, handouts, and other materials being handed out at military academies and staff development sessions on this topic.
They should get financial and other information about any outside speakers brought in to discuss these topics. Has Kendi, or someone like Robin DiAngelo, been paid with tax dollars to speak to military staff, and how much? Has the military bought their books, and for how much? Are their ideas given no-holds-barred discussion and critique, or are they presented as gospel? Are equal time and public resources given to scholars with opposing views? Why or why not? Congress should ask admirals and generals. Investigators should start at the top and work their way down.
They could even encourage whistleblowers among the enlisted and officers, many of which have privately contacted me about this issue to say it goes very deep and they are afraid to speak out. But they would have to prove they can provide security to anyone who speaks out, as Congress’s track record on politicized leaks is terrible.
The military is alleging this book list and their trainings about racism are conducted in a spirit of open inquiry and opposition to racial discrimination. Let them prove it. Let the whole nation see what our military officers are being taught. Bring everything out into the open — to foster “critical thinking.” It will be illuminating.