On Wednesday, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the teaching of Marxist critical race theory (CRT) in the military. Milley made two incompatible arguments on the subject. He first adopted a CRT mentality by arguing that CRT is essential to understand America’s history and the “white rage” behind the Capitol riot, and then he argued that studying CRT does not entail believing CRT, any more than reading Karl Marx makes someone a Marxist.
Milley responded to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who pressed him on critical race theory, which teaches people that America is systemically racist and urges them to seize on any racial disparity as ipso facto proof of racial discrimination, despite the clear prohibitions of racial discrimination in federal law.
“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,” Milley said, adopting a concept steeped in CRT. The idea of “white rage” involves a racial consciousness and the alleged anger at losing racial dominance and control in America. While a kind of rage drove the Capitol rioters, that rage traced back to President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election and arguably exaggerated concerns about the integrity of that election, not racism.
Milley adopted the Left’s interpretation of the Capitol riot, suggesting it was an insurrection. “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,” the general said.
He argued that “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.”
Notice the sleight of hand: Milley claimed that studying critical race theory involved helping him understand the “white rage” that inspired the Capitol riot and that it is important to study this “white rage” because service members come from the American public at large, which ostensibly struggles with this “white rage.”
Then the general introduced his other argument: studying CRT does not make one a proponent of CRT.
“I’ve read Mao Zedong, I’ve read Karl Marx, I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding?” Milley asked. “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 — our non-commissioned officers, of being ‘woke’ or something else because we are studying some theories that are out there.”
The general defined CRT in a very favorable light, and arguably applied it in his very definition.
“That was started at Harvard Law School years ago, and it proposed that there were laws in the United States, antebellum laws prior to the Civil War, that led to a power differential with African Americans that were three-quarters of a human being when this country was formed, and then we had a Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation to change it, and we brought it up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took another hundred years to change that,” he argued.
While critical race theory fully emerged at Harvard Law School in the early 1980s, it traces back to the 1970s, when legal scholars, activists, and lawyers applied critical theory to race, using a Marxist lens. Although CRT theorists may have rightly studied the outdated racist laws that remained on the books despite the Civil Rights Act, they also re-examined American history in order to argue that there is a hidden system of racism undergirding the entire society.
For instance, Milley should know that the Three-Fifths Compromise was not a racist declaration that “African Americans were three fifths of a human being.” Rather, the compromise actually weakened slavery, to some degree.
Slaveholders wanted slaves to count as a whole person for purposes of representation in Congress because this would give them more power and thus strengthen the institution of slavery. Yet opponents rightly claimed that slaves did not receive the right to vote and therefore they should not count for purposes of representation. So the Founders compromised, counting slaves as three-fifths of a free person for purposes of representation. This compromise was never meant as a statement on the inherent value or dignity of a slave, much less of black people in general. Furthermore, free blacks — like free whites — counted as five-fifths for purposes of representation.
Critical race theory today is wreaking havoc on society, leading teachers and politicians to demonize white people for the color of their skin and creating new racial preferences and discrimination. It has sparked a civil war in education, with parents revolting, teachers resigning, and school districts introducing racism in the name of “anti-racism.”
Since American society must be secretly racist, CRT advocates attribute various aspects of society to the nefarious impact of “whiteness.” The Smithsonian briefly published a “teaching tool” infographic on “whiteness.” That infographic claimed that the nuclear family, science, capitalism, the Judeo-Christian tradition, individualism, “objective, rational linear thinking,” and even values such as “be polite” are aspects of oppressive whiteness. The Smithsonian rightly removed the graphic after facing criticism, but this incident illustrates just how mainstream CRT has become.
While Republicans have sounded the alarm about critical race theory, Democrats have obfuscated the issue, claiming that concern about CRT is a “conspiracy theory” or even a manifestation of white “privilege.” Such claims effectively erase the black parents, black teachers, and Asian organizations that have rightly condemned CRT.
Democrats also argue that without CRT, schools would not teach the history of American slavery, which is absurd. Milley’s remarks echoed these obfuscations
Whistleblowers within the military have exposed racially charged exercises that suggest CRT has infiltrated the ranks and inspired some trainings. Although the military should combat true extremism in the ranks, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Countering Extremism Working Group inspired grave concerns about censorship in the ranks. Various training materials used for the military-wide “stand down” to combat “extremism” issued strict warnings about support for “discrimination.”
Milley’s remarks suggest that critical race theory has infected the military, all the way to the top. His use of Democratic talking points to defend CRT as an academic exercise, rather than a noxious anti-American ideology, should disturb Americans greatly. Just as Milley should know the truth about the Three-Fifths Compromise, he should know the fact that critical race theory divides and demonizes people according to the color of their skin.
CRT is not a matter of “sensitivity training” or merely an academic exercise: it is a threat to America’s ideals and to the country’s wellbeing. While soldiers should, of course, study even such destructive ideologies, they should not embrace them or use them as a lens to see America. The fact that Milley did so should terrify Americans.
“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said while testifying before Congress, pushing back on accusations from a Republican congressman that the military was becoming too “woke.” https://t.co/ix4dKxrC2d pic.twitter.com/HkFVB7d6Ur
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 24, 2021