The top U.S. military officer in the United States and President Joe Biden’s military adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley is stoking controversy on the right and left after he defended studying critical race theory as a way to understand “white rage” during a House hearing on Wednesday.
Milley, asked to respond to Republican lawmakers’ criticism of critical race theory being taught in the military, caused shock waves throughout the political world that were still reverberating the next day, when he defended it and tied “white rage” to the January 6 Capitol riot.
I’ll obviously have to get much smarter on whatever the theory is. But, I do think it’s important actually for those of us in uniform to be open minded and be widely read and the United States Military Academy is a university and it is important that we train and we understand– and I want to understand white rage and I’m white, and I want to understand it.
So, what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here and I do want to analyze it. It’s important that we understand that because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardians, they come from the American people. So, it is important that the leaders, now and in the future, do understand it.
I’ve read Mao Tse-tung. I’ve read–I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So, what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And, I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers of being ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.
Milley’s remarks prompted surprise, since active duty members of the military have historically stayed apolitical and his remarks put him in the center of a heated political debate on critical race theory.
His remarks even prompted the term “white rage” to trend on Twitter on Thursday.
Conservative pundits slammed Milley’s defense of critical race theory as a way to understand “white rage.”
Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Tony Shaffer tweeted, “Who ever thought that the career Army general would finish his service and forever be seen through the lens of his Woke comment: ‘I want to understand white rage, and I’m white…’? General MacArthur would be proud!”
Who ever thought that the career Army general would finish his service and forever be seen through the lens of his Woke comment: "I want to understand white rage, and I'm white…"?
General MacArthur would be proud!
— Tony Shaffer (@T_S_P_O_O_K_Y) June 24, 2021
Some conservative pundits questioned what the “white rage” was that Milley was referring to.
Newsmax host Steve Cortes tweeted: “I’m a minority in America and I’ve never witnessed it. Not at all.”
What is the “white rage” phantom he’s citing?
I’m a minority in America and I’ve never witnessed it. Not at all. pic.twitter.com/xbLkxQNDFV
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) June 24, 2021
Conservative writer Carmine Sabia tweeted, “White rage? What an embarrassment to our military and our nation.”
White rage? What an embarrassment to our military and our nation. Everything has to be redone. Wokeness has infiltrated our military and it will weaken it the way it has weakened manhood in the rest of society. https://t.co/zp0Y9qU5Py
— Carmine Sabia (@CarmineSabia) June 24, 2021
Kevin and Keith Hodge, who are known as the “Hodge twins,” noted that Milley was actually applying critical race theory by using the term “white rage.” They tweeted: “What the hell is white rage? Is it the same as Black Rage.”
— Hodgetwins (@hodgetwins) June 24, 2021
Conservative host Allie Beth Stuckey made a similar point. “The concepts of ‘white rage’ and ‘white privilege’ are concepts of critical race theory and critical whiteness studies. He already fully adheres to communist CRT, and, like most people who do, he doesn’t even know it,” she tweeted.
The concepts of “white rage” and “white privilege” are concepts of critical race theory and critical whiteness studies. He already fully adheres to communist CRT, and, like most people who do, he doesn’t even know it. https://t.co/aONNdMw3de
— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) June 24, 2021
Journalist Kyle Becker emphasized the unusualness of the nation’s top military officer’s accusing unarmed protesters of an “assault” driven by “white rage” in the “absence of any linkage whatsoever between racism & the contested election.”
“Sick,” he added.
*The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff* just characterized unarmed protesters who killed no one as an "assault" driven by "white rage" in the absence of any linkage whatsoever between racism & the contested election of an old white guy. Sick.🔻https://t.co/ed8JcIbMiU
— Kyle Becker (@kylenabecker) June 23, 2021
Marine veteran and conservative media commentator Greg Kelly also commented on Milley’s tying of “white rage” to the January 6 Capitol riot.
“‘General MILLEY’ — knows what happened January6th: an outbreak of ‘White Rage’ — Milley should Resign IMMEDIATELY and Pursue his Passions. Race based nonsense,” he tweeted.
Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of VIRTUE SIGNALING—“General MILLEY” — knows what happened January6th: an outbreak of “White Rage” —Milley should Resign IMMEDIATELY and Pursue his Passions. Race based nonsense. pic.twitter.com/afONwBl8fm
— Greg Kelly (@gregkellyusa) June 24, 2021
On the left, journalist Tariq Nasheed, who has defended critical race theory, used Milley’s remarks to expound on critical race theory.
“White rage is connected to systematic white supremacy. The ‘rage’ comes from the desperation to maintain the system,” he tweeted.
White rage is connected to systematic white supremacy. The “rage” comes from the desperation to maintain the system. https://t.co/AyMAA6Acjp
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) June 24, 2021
The White House backed Milley’s remarks on Thursday. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called them “powerful” during an interview on MSNBC:
I thought they were hugely powerful and hugely powerful from him, right? And, look, as a white woman myself, I think it’s important for us all to be self-reflective about what we’re teaching our children and how we’re engaging with the next generation and acknowledge that we have some dark history in our country. Racism still exists. There’s a dark history of slavery in our country and it’s important our kids know about that.
Psaki added that she’s “sure” Biden is “aware” of Milley’s comments “and agrees with them and agrees that this should be a part of what we should make sure kids understand and learn in their classrooms about our history — the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it.”
According to Britannica’s online encyclopedia, critical race theory’s precursor was the critical legal studies movement, which is an “offshoot of Marxist-oriented critical theory.”
Milley came under fire from the left after he accompanied former President Donald Trump on a walk across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church in June after the White House was almost breached during a pro-Black Lives Matter riot last summer.
Critics accused Trump of using federal police to clear the park for a photo-op. Milley subsequently apologized for accompanying Trump on the walk. An inspector general report later said the park was already scheduled to be cleared, and was not cleared for the walk.
The two Republican lawmakers who had questioned Milley during Wednesday’s hearing on critical race theory spreading in the military expressed further alarm.
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) tweeted after the hearing in response to Milley:
Our enemy’s bullets don’t care about the color of our skin, just the flag on our shoulder. Critical Race Theory is incredibly dangerous and destructive to morale and unity — and SHOULD NOT be taught to our military’s future leaders. Period.
Our enemy's bullets don't care about the color of our skin, just the flag on our shoulder.
Critical Race Theory is incredibly dangerous and destructive to morale and unity — and SHOULD NOT be taught to our military's future leaders. Period. https://t.co/i3ILkcyh1e
— Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) June 23, 2021
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called for the banning of critical race theory legislatively.
Our military leadership denied teaching Critical Race Theory…
…right before admitting to teaching Critical Race Theory…
…and then defending Critical Race Theory.
Now, we must legislatively prohibit CRT to protect our service members from this hate.https://t.co/L3OFGITIIQ
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 23, 2021
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) tweeted: “CRT is wholly un-American, immoral and dangerous for our nation’s military leaders to embrace!”
CRT is wholly un-American, immoral and dangerous for our nation’s military leaders to embrace! https://t.co/n8R953N8sn
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) June 24, 2021