Cotton Blasts Wokeness in the Navy

Critical race theory distracts from Navy’s 'genuine cultural problems,' senator says

June 22, 2021

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) during a Tuesday hearing with a top naval officer pilloried the introduction of critical race theory into the ranks of the U.S. Navy.

Cotton criticized Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday for including controversial books on critical race theory on an official Navy reading list. Gilday in a House Armed Services Committee hearing had already defended the inclusion of the books by authors such as Ibram X. Kendi. Cotton told Gilday that his defense was "deeply disappointing" and distracted from the Navy’s "genuine cultural problems" in discipline and training.

"You, as the chief of naval operations, are suggesting in your professional reading list that it’s a worthwhile endeavor for our sailors and ensigns to spend their time reading books like these, as opposed to, say, books on maritime strategy or basic seafaring skills," Cotton said. "The Navy has had some genuine cultural problems and drift and lack of focus that it needs to address. Assigning books like these, and encouraging your sailors to take the time to do so, is not a way for the Navy to regain its focus."

Cotton mentioned incidents in recent years, such as warship collisions and fires, as well as breakdowns in discipline among sailors, that the Navy ought to address. Critical race theory authors, Cotton said, often encourage further divisiveness, suggesting that "the only remedy for past discrimination is present discrimination."

Gilday again defended the inclusion of the books, saying they help create "critical thinkers" within the ranks.

"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," Gilday said. "We need critical thinkers in the Navy and throughout the military in our enlisted force."

Former naval officers told the Washington Free Beacon in February, however, the use of critical race theory in training and instruction could undermine the military branch’s culture.

The Navy’s reading list is not the only home to critical race theory in the armed forces. Space Operations Command relieved Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier of duty in May for criticizing Pentagon leadership after they included critical race theory in troop training. Administrators at West Point have also embraced the theory in their curricula, eliciting fierce criticism from lawmakers.