The high-level U.S. Navy officer on Tuesday defended including a so-called anti-racist book on his recommended reading list.
Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said he does not agree with everything in the book, “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram Kendi, but believed in exposing his sailors to the ideology outlined in it.
“I chose a variety of books. There are over 50 books on my reading list to give my sailors a wide range of information from which I hope they can make facts-based decisions on both their ability to look outwardly at potential aggressors like China and Russia, as well as looking inwardly and being honest with themselves in areas they need to improve.
“In talking to sailors over the past year, it’s clearly obvious to me and others that the murder of George Floyd and the events surrounding that, the discussions in this country about racism which go back for years and years and years, are still a painful part of our culture and that talking about them, understanding them, is the best approach,” Gilday told Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) during a Senate panel hearing in Washington.
“They don’t have to agree with every assertion that Kendi makes—I don’t accept every assertion that Kendi makes, and I wouldn’t think that all sailors would as well, but they need to be exposed to it, so that they’re making facts-based—we need critical thinkers in the Navy and throughout the military, and our enlisted force. Again, we don’t only think outwardly but inwardly so they make objective, hopefully objective, facts-based decisions or draw conclusions in a world that it’s increasingly more difficult to get an unbiased view of a really tough problem,” he added.
Kendi’s book is among the fast-growing segment of works that attempt to promote “racial equity and justice,” an ideology that has Marxist roots. Critics like Cotton argue that the book pushes racial discrimination.
Cotton said the segment of works include “the notion that capitalism is essentially racist and racism is essentially capitalist; that the only remedy for past discrimination is present discrimination; the only remedy for present discrimination is future discrimination; that some individuals by virtue of his or her race are inherently oppressive or privileged while others are victimized or oppressed; that individuals can bear some kind of collective responsibility or collective guilt for the actions committed by members of his or her race,” he said.
Pressed on whether he believes capitalism is racist, Gilday said he wouldn’t engage “without understanding the context of statements like that.”
“In what context could the claim that capitalism is essentially racist possibly be something with which you would agree?” Cotton wondered.
“I’d have to go back to the book to take a look at that,” Gilday responded.
While Republicans have criticized Kendi’s work and others like it, some Democrats have praised the author. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), for instance, dubbed Kendi among the “extraordinary leaders” that were part of a council meeting last year.
A week earlier, Gilday was questioned on the same book recommendation while appearing before the House Armed Services Committee.
“Do you personally consider advocating for the destruction of American capitalism to be extremist?” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) asked, before quoting other portions of the book.
“Here’s what I know: there is racism in the United States Navy. … I am not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book. This is a bigger issue than Kendi’s book. What this is really about is trying to paint the United States military, and the United States Navy, as weak, as woke,” Gilday said at the time, confirming he read the book before adding later: “We are not weak. We are strong.”
Gilday’s reading attracted pushback earlier this year, with Banks denouncing it as promoting views that are “explicitly anti-American.” Gilday reportedly responded by saying he included the book because “it evokes the author’s own personal journey in understanding barriers to true inclusion, the deep nuances of racism and racial inequalities.”