House Democrats defended the teaching of critical race theory in the military during a House Armed Services Committee markup of the massive defense policy bill early Thursday morning.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) proposed an amendment to the bill to ban the promotion of critical race theory within the military and at schools run by the Department of Defense.
His amendment follows some high profile incidents, such as the Naval Chief of Operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, putting the book How to Be an Antiracist on his recommended reading list, and concerned parents of West Point students reaching out to members of Congress on courses, seminars, and panels at the academy promoting critical race theory. It also follows the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley saying he wanted to “understand white rage” during a House hearing this summer.
Banks said at the hearing in support of his amendment:
It is not sustainable to push this anti-Americanism on our troops. The men and women who wear the uniform, who take an oath to protect and defend our Constitution and our country knowing they could pay the ultimate sacrifice in doing so, how do we expect the next generation of leaders to get up and raise their right hand like I did and many of you did, when we’re teaching them that America is inherently racist and evil?
Gen. Milley sat there and infamously defended critical race theory, explaining the ideology was an integral part of the military’s mission. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Gen. Milley spent more time on our plans withdrawing from Afghanistan than on prioritizing this dangerous anti-American garbage.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) defended Milley, saying it was a mischaracterization of what Milley said, then said Banks’ amendment would be micromanaging the military.
“We need to talk about race. Micromanaging it this way — us interfering in that effort within the services does an incredible disservice to the effort to deal with equity and racism in the military,” he said.
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) agreed. “It is getting Congress in the business of dictating curriculum for educational institutions”
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), however, defended critical race theory itself. He said, arguing that troops would fight harder after learning it:
I will reject the notion that critical race theory promotes the idea that this country was built on hatred, or that it’s a racist country. Critical race theory is just that — it’s a theory, it’s a framework, it’s a concept of how to consider our relationships in our economy, our politics, our community, and how race has shaped us as a country.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) took issue with Brown’s characterization, saying that critical race theorists have a definition of critical race theory “that deviates from what my colleague laid before the committee.”
“Critical race theory is a poison. It otherizes our fellow Americans. It is not what we need in our military, in our schools, in our lives, or anywhere in our great nation,” Gaetz said. He added:
It is a rejection of the values of Martin Luther King. They say that integration was wrong. That integration should have never happened. Critical race theory is a vile incarnation of ethnonationalism in America, and I reject ethnonationalism where it comes from white people, black people, brown people, any other type of people. This is a great nation when we hold hands with one another and when we reject critical race theory.
A string of Democrats chimed in to defend critical race theory. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) said:
We need to teach the truth about American history. All of American history. Including slavery, including Jim Crow. And by being honest about our path we can actually teach the hard truth about our country. By denying that truth, by denying the opportunity to have that education we are denying who we are as a nation, all of who we are.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) defended the book How to Be an Antiracist.:
It’s an uncomfortable read for a white person in particular because you find things out about how we as white people maintain the status quo so that our black colleagues don’t get ahead. … We do have a problem of racism in the military and it’s important for us to recognize it and deal with it.
Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) also defended critical race theory.
“Critical race theory is not trying to make white people feel bad. But it is acknowledging that underrepresented communities have had systemic barriers and some of them still exist,” she said.
Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) accused Banks of wanting to perpetuate racism and scare voters:
What Rep. Banks is doing today is saying we should not look back at structural racism within the military…and asking people to not study history…is not the right way to do business. To me this is nothing more than a ploy like we’ve seen with bussing and integration and other buzzwords that we’ve seen to try to scare voters when it comes to dealing with issues around race.
Gaetz jumped in again, adding that, “There’s actually real stuff that these students need to be learning, about cyber and about warfare and even other things that expand the mind.” He went on:
The problem is that this specific curriculum that the Banks amendment identifies…does not do those things. It does not expand the mind, it constrains the mind. It makes you think that we are a society where your grievance matters more than the contribution you can make, and that the immutable traits that a person carries with them throughout life do not make that person less valuable as an American.
“The Banks provisions of exclusion localize a critique on that. It doesn’t stop us from teaching history. It doesn’t stop us from walking through the modernization of our Constitution to be more just and proper,” he added.
Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) argued that critical race theory “actually advocates discrimination, which is against the law.”:
No person should be judged by the color of their skin. That’s the power of what Martin Luther King said. But critical race theory from what I’ve read of it says just the opposite — you should judge a person by the color of their skin, or that you should discriminate against that person because others were discriminated against and it’s a way of undoing it.
“This is not about wanting to hide the huge mistakes of our past. It’s wanting to to make sure we’re not driving a wedge that can stop the reconciliation that is so desperately needed,” he said.
Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX), who sponsored Banks’ amendment, slammed critical race theory and defended his Republican colleagues.
“What critical race theory does is it is teaching that racism is baked into all the systems and institutions and that we’re inherently racist country. That’s why there’s so much opposition to it,” he said.
Democrats ultimately voted Banks’ amendment down.
Watch the debate here: