The Air Force Academy requires its incoming cadets to watch a diversity and inclusion video supportive of attending a Black Lives Matter chapter meeting. Critics argue this proves military academies have implemented critical race theory as part of their curriculum.
“We are pleased to offer this introductory D&I course as part of our commitment to working with cadets and cadet candidates in fostering a safe community built on mutual respect, teamwork, and personal dignity,” a note from Yvonne L. Roland, the director of Culture, Climate, and Diversity, reads at the onset of the training.
The video follows Jose, a minority student, and three friends, while the instructions tell cadets to “decide how you think his friends should respond.”
In the first scenario, two of the white friends pressure Jose to attend a Black Lives Matter rally, while the third later posits that the slogan should be “All Lives Matter,” which was later described as a “really problematic” comment.
“I can confirm this is part of required training for inbound cadets,” Air Force Academy spokesman Dean Miller told the Washington Examiner. “This is the first year this training has been used, and it is used at universities across the country.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop and Dr. Ron Scott, a retired USAF Col., created an organization, Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services, Incorporated, to stop the implementation of critical race theory, which they argue is “simply Marxism repackaged in new terms.”
Black Lives Matter as an organization has openly espoused Marxism as part of its stated aims, though the phrase is often used to describe concerns about police shootings in black communities.
Critical race theory dates back to the 1970s, and it provides an alternative perspective on the country’s history of issues of race. Critical race theorists allege that the country’s foundational institutions are designed to keep white people ahead of minorities, requiring the dismantlement of the system to achieve a more just society.
Opponents of the theory, mainly but not exclusively conservatives, argue that it is divisive because it assigns whites the role of oppressors and people of color the role of victims.
The decades-old theory has gotten significantly more attention in recent months amid accusations that schools and military institutions have begun introducing its core tenets in the classroom.
Col. Mark Anarumo, the president of Norwich University and formerly the director and permanent professor for the Center for Character and Leadership Development at the Air Force Academy, told the Washington Examiner in an interview that the teaching of critical race theory does not allow for “a high-level debate or enhanced understanding of a topic.”
“It’s what to think versus how to think,” and the “problem with that is there is a natural power dynamic in higher education, or really in any education, where if the professors are steering you towards a certain way to think, and you buck that, your grade suffers,” he added.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Department of Defense does not “teach” or “embrace” the theory during a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing in June, but Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave an impassioned speech defending the merits of teaching the theory, comparing it to learning about Mao Zedong and Karl Marx, during the same hearing.
Lynne Chandler Garcia, an associate professor of political science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, admitted to teaching critical race theory in a June op-ed for the Washington Post, in which she argued that doing so was “vital.”
Asked about the apparent discrepancy between Garcia and Austin’s comments, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Politico, “There is no contradiction here. The Secretary’s comments stand. That a professor at an academic institution such as the Air Force Academy teaches a given theory as part of an elective course does not in the slightest way signify some larger effort by the Department to teach, espouse or embrace said theory.”
Critical race theory was referenced during the academy’s Acceptance Day Parade, which occurred earlier this month, according to one veteran who was in attendance to celebrate a relative who was honored as a newly accepted cadet, and he said he has “never been sicker in my life.”
“I was disgusted by the fact there was a message of divisiveness vice a message of unity. I believe American citizens join the military because they love this nation,” the veteran, who requested anonymity to protect his relative from retribution, added.
“I’ve never met anyone who said they joined just to see what was going on. This same love of nation, patriotism, is what brings men and women of all backgrounds, all races, all religions, and all ethnicities together. It is the glue that holds us together. It is also the one thing that will make a person risk his/her life in defense of the greatest nation in the world.”