Navy chief defends anti-racism readings against GOP attacks


'The way we're going to get after it is to be honest about it, not to sweep it under the rug, and to talk about it,' said Adm. Michael Gilday.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Admiral Michael Gilday, the Navy's chief of operations, said that the Navy has racism within its ranks and includes books on anti-racism in its recommended reading list as part of an effort to rid itself of bigotry.

Gilday, who was promoted to his current position in 2019 by former President Donald Trump, was questioned by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) about the inclusion of Ibram X. Kendi's book "How to Be an Antiracist" in the Navy's nonmandatory reading list. Lamborn complained that the book was one of several on the list "promoting critical race theory."

In response, Gilday said, "I'm not a theorist, I'm the chief of naval operations. What I can tell you is factually, based on a substantial amount of time talking to sailors in the fleet, there's racism in the Navy, just like there's racism in our country."

He continued, "The way we're going to get after it is to be honest about it, not to sweep it under the rug, and to talk about it. And that's what we're doing. And that's one of the reasons that book is on the list."

Gilday noted that he did not agree with everything Kendi had written in his book, "but the key point here is the sailors in our Navy have to be able to think critically."

"We have to understand ourselves, and we have to understand critically that we value diversity," said Gilday.

Lamborn's line of questioning about "critical race theory" reflects an ongoing campaign by Republicans to apply the term for the academic study of systemic racism to disparage and dismiss any effort to teach about it.

Republicans at the state level, in the House, and in the Senate, along with conservative activist groups, have set up "critical race theory" as a boogeyman they can attack to score political points with their base of supporters.

Fox News has mentioned "critical race theory" nearly 1,300 times in the last 3.5 months, according to a recently released study by Media Matters for America.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.