House Republican presses Navy chief on why critical race theory was placed on voluntary reading list

Ibram X. Kendi's 'How to Be an Antiracist' is in recommended reading list

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., expressed concern that the U.S. Navy is promoting discrimination by including books about critical race theory on a recommended reading list, specifically pointing at Ibram X. Kendi's "How to Be an Antiracist."

At a Tuesday House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Navy's 2022 budget request, Lamborn asked Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday why that book was on the Navy's professional reading list.

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"[I}t argues that the entire American system is corrupted from top to bottom by racial prejudices which account for all differences in outcomes in our society," Lamborn said. "And one sentence out of that book says, ‘The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.’"

The congressman then questioned what place such a book has within the context of the U.S. military, even if the reading list is merely voluntary.

"How does exposing our sailors to the idea that they are either oppressors or oppressed and that we must actively discriminate to make up for past discrimination improve our Navy’s readiness and lethality for great power competition?" he asked.

Gilday defended the inclusion of the book by pointing to his findings that racism is a problem in the Navy, and that discussing it is essential to fixing it.

"What I can tell you is factually based on a substantial amount of time talking to sailors in the fleet, there is racism in the Navy just like there’s racism in our country," he said. "And the way we’re going to 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."

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Gilday made clear that he does not agree with everything in the book, but that the true value in having sailors read it is getting them to think about its ideas in order to develop skills in viewing the world at home and abroad.

"They have to be able to look outwardly at China and Russia, and they have to understand what those societies — why those societies are a potential danger to the United States," the admiral said. "Inwardly, we have to understand ourselves, and we have to understand critically that we value diversity."

Lamborn said he agrees with Gilday’s position that there should be a discussion about racism and that racism "should be uprooted," but questioned whether "future discrimination" is something they should support. 

"You don’t endorse that particular statement, do you?" he asked.

Gilday said he would have to look at the context of that statement, but reiterated that he does not agree with everything Kendi says. 

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"I think that everybody needs to be in a position to weigh fact from fiction," he said, stating that misinformation on the subject matter has been spread through the American populace by Russia and China. 

"I’m trying to get after it in the Navy."