How would you react if you learned that our military’s future leaders were being taught that they have a moral duty to oppose the foundations of America and the civilian institutions with authority over them? How about if you learned that service members were being taught that they should discriminate against one another?
Last week in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, I asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin a question about cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point receiving presentations that are grounded in Critical Race Theory (CRT). A family of a West Point Cadet raised these concerns to me, sending a screenshot of a lecture titled “Dealing With Whiteness and White Rage” supporting their claims.
CRT is a radical, Marxist-derived academic theory that makes race the lens through which its adherents view all aspects of social, political, and cultural life. The proponents of CRT assert that the very foundations of our country are racist and must be dismantled.
In response to my question, Secretary Austin said “It certainly sounds like something that should not occur”. Later in the hearing, General Milley declared that, “it is important that we train and that we understand these theories.”
I have tremendous respect for General Milley. However, on this key issue, he is wrong and misinformed. We can respectfully disagree on this.
General Milley claims that CRT is akin to an academic study of theories like Marxism through a historic lens do not necessarily make one a communist. This is a grave and irresponsible mischaracterization.
CRT is not a passive history class. Rather, CRT is a proactive ideological statement that presently, in the year 2021, our very civic institutions such as the Constitution and the U.S. Government are itself racist and irrevocably flawed. CRT teaches that our modern society is fundamentally wrong and that it must be resisted.
Don’t believe me? Look no further than the description of CRT put forth by the original academic proponents of the theory, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic:
“Unlike traditional civil rights, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law,” they claim.
Further, according to Dr. Carol Anderson of Emory University, a proponent of CRT, “The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, drive, purpose, aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship.”
This lecture by Dr. Anderson taught cadets that white comrades will harbor innate anger towards cadets of color when they are successful. This is destructive to unity and morale and erodes trust within the ranks.
Regardless of a person’s race, background, or creed, our fighting men and women must trust the people they serve with. CRT teaches the opposite: One of the most well-known proponents of this doctrine, Ibram X. Kendi, writes in How to be an Anti-Racist, a book on the 2021 Chief of Naval Operations reading list, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
The idea that the only way to combat racism is with racism is destructive to unit cohesion; the bonds of trust necessary for our military to achieve success in their missions.
CRT at our military academies can only bring divisiveness in the ranks, which is lethal in combat. The U.S. military prides itself on being colorblind, merit-based, and mission focused. When the enemy is firing at you, they only care about the flag on your shoulder, not the color of your skin.
How can we teach cadets to put the amount of trust in each other needed to survive combat when they are being taught that they must discriminate against each other?
Here’s the bottom line. We should encourage active philosophical debate within our institutes of higher education. We must better understand our nation’s troubled past when it comes to race. We should learn about the ways that America has struggled to live up to the ideals of our founding documents, as well as the ways in which America has corrected many of these injustices through our 245-year history.
The goal, after all, is and always has been to form a more perfect Union.
But as a nation, we are on incredibly perilous ground if our future military officers are taught that the civilian institutions and structures with ultimate authority over them – our courts, elected officials, our laws - and the very Constitution that they take an oath to support and defend are systemically oppressive and that they have a duty to oppose them.
Michael Waltz represents Florida's 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee, a Green Beret veteran of the war on terror in Afghanistan, a former White House counterterrorism policy adviser, and author of the book Warrior Diplomat: a Green Beret's Battles from Washington to Afghanistan.