Admiral Michael Gilday was grilled by House Republicans on Wednesday over accusations of “wokeness” being injected into the US military — insisting the force is “not weak” as he defended including a book touted by proponents of critical race theory in sailors’ reading lists.
Gilday, the chief of Naval Operations, was grilled by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee about the contents of Ibram X. Kendi’s 2019 book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” and its recommendation to sailors.
The book argues that capitalism and racism are inextricably linked, saying, “Capitalism is essentially racist,” and, “racism is essentially capitalist.”
“Do you personally consider advocating for the destruction of American capitalism to be extremist?” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) asked Gilday during Wednesday’s hearing.
“I am not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book,” he said. “This is a bigger issue than Kendi’s book. What this is really about is trying to paint the United States military, and the United States Navy as weak, as woke.”
“We are not weak. We are strong,” Gilday, the Navy’s highest-ranking officer, said.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), citing passages in the book, pressed Gilday on why it would be included in the “voluntary” reading lists.
”How does exposing our sailors to the idea that they are either oppressors or oppressed, and that we must actively discriminate in order to make up for past discrimination, improve our Navy’s readiness and lethality?” he asked.
Gilday said sailors have to be armed with information about racism and diversity to fight the reams of misinformation spread by foes of the US.
”Everybody has to be in a position to weigh fact from fiction, even our sailors. They’re bombarded every day by misinformation – much of it comes from China and Russia – on this issue that’s getting at our national psyche,” Gilday replied. “I’m trying to get after it in the Navy.”
The admiral acknowledged that he doesn’t agree with everything in Kendi’s book, but said the military needs to be open about the presence of racism.
One passage from the book claims that being “not racist” is still tacitly racist, that neutrality is “racism” and that activism is the only way to not be racist.
“One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’ The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism,” Kendi writes.
“There is racism in the Navy just like there’s racism in our country, and the way we’re going to get after it is to be honest about it, not to sweep it under the rug, and talk about it,” Gilday said, adding that sailors need to be able to “think critically.”
Banks said if sailors adopt Kendi’s argument that the country and the military are fundamentally racist, “do you expect that to increase or decrease morale and cohesion?”
Gilday insisted that “[o]ur strength is in our diversity.”
“I do know this: Our strength is in our diversity, and our sailors understand that,” he said.
The Defense Department has come under intense criticism for its efforts to address “extremism” in its ranks, which critics contend is a means to inject “woke” ideology into the military.
Two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, have started a whistleblower campaign so that active-duty military members can report critical race theory as part of “diversity training.”
Last month, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) mocked a US Army recruitment ad that featured a female soldier who was raised by a lesbian couple in San Francisco, and was inspired to serve a country that defends gay rights, and compared it to a Russian military ad that showed a group of all-male soldiers doing pushups, shaving their heads, jumping from airplanes, and firing rifles.
“Holy crap. Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea….” Cruz said.
A recently relieved Space Force commander claimed last month that the Pentagon sent service members a video claiming that America and white people were “evil.”
Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier told Fox News’ “Hannity” that the videos “were sent out to every base [and] servicemember” and “we were asked to watch [them] in preparation for our extremism down days and discussions on race.”
Those videos, Lohmeier added, “taught that the country was evil, that it was founded in 1619 and not 1776, and that whites are inherently evil.”
Lohmeier did not specify when the videos were sent out beyond saying it had happened “in the past ten months, when I was in command of a unit.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a 60-day “stand down” of the entire US military back in February to allow for commanders to address the “threat.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby described the military-wide pause at the time as similar to stand downs that units have to conduct to address safety concerns.
In April, Austin issued a memo with several immediate actions for the Pentagon to take to combat “extremism” following the stand down, but cautioned that the department was continuing “to address this issue proactively.”
In addition, Austin ordered an update to the DoD’s definition of prohibited extremist activities among uniformed personnel, an update to the service member transition checklist, a review and standardization of questionnaires for recruits and a study on extremism in the ranks.
Since then, a senior adviser to Austin tasked with addressing “extremism” in the armed forces has been appointed, who, according to his social media posts, has claimed all Donald Trump voters support racism and has called for curbing free speech online.