Navy Chief Defends Putting Book on Racism on Navy Reading List: ‘We Have to Understand Ourselves’

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 31, 2019 file photo, Vice Adm. Michael Gilday appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington for his confirmation hearing to be an admiral and Chief of Naval Operations. On Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 Gilday, now the chief of naval …
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

The Navy’s top military officer Adm. Michael Gilday on Tuesday defended putting Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Anti-Racist on the Navy’s list of recommended reads for sailors, telling lawmakers that sailors need to understand themselves.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) during a House Armed Services Committee hearing asked Gilday why Kendi’s book is on the reading list in light of controversial views espoused in the book, such as there needs to be “future discrimination” to make up for past discrimination.

Gilday at first said he did not support all of Kendi’s views but said that sailors need to look outwardly at external threats to the U.S. — China and Russia — but that, “inwardly, we have to understand ourselves.”

“We have to understand critically that we value diversity,” Gilday added.

Lamborn said he agreed on the need for robust discussion and rooting out racism from the military but asked, “Should we have future discrimination?”

Gilday responded that he would “have to look at the context of it” and that sailors are being bombarded by “misinformation” on the issue, much of it coming from Russia and China.

Later in the hearing, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) also grilled Gilday on putting the book on the list of recommended readings for all U.S. sailors.

That exchange was far more contentious as Banks read out some of the views espoused by Kendi and his book and asked if Gilday agreed with those statements, such as that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a “white colonizer,” that capitalism is racist, and that white people are a different breed of humans and responsible for the AIDS virus.

Gilday responded, “Sir, I’d have to understand the context in which the statements were made. I’m not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book. This is a bigger issue than somebody’s book. What this is really about is trying to paint the United States military, and in this case, the United States Navy as weak, as woke. … We are not weak.”

The U.S. military, under the Biden administration, has dramatically stepped up efforts to address racism and “extremism” in the military, citing the January 6 Capitol riot. To date, there has been only one active-duty service member charged in connection to the riot out of more than 450 arrested.

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