By William F. Prince, Col, USA (Ret), USMA ‘70
The editors of the STARRS newsletter have graciously allowed me to divide the results of my investigation into the training of West Point cadets in Critical Race Theory (CRT) into two parts. The STARRS editors asked me to structure both parts as more or less stand alone documents. Thus, the following contains at least some of the introductory remarks I made in Part 1 which appeared in STARRS Newsletter Edition 11.
Permit me to provide a bit of my personal background as bona fides for stating as my fixed opinion that CRT, if allowed to fully infect our military, will have a devastating impact on troop morale and unit cohesion. I served in Vietnam with both Ranger and Special Forces units, a two year tour in El Salvador during the war there, was decorated for “extraordinary heroism” during operations in Somalia, and finished up with 11 deployments between Iraq and Afghanistan. I also have a master’s degree from Harvard so I am rather familiar with “progressive” political theories.
Given the CRT threat to our military, I thought it worthwhile to investigate CRT at West Point. Having spent a fair amount of time in Vietnam, I watched with a mixture of heartbreak and outrage our humiliating departure from Saigon. It was impossible to miss the parallels during the debacle in Afghanistan. That only reinforced my belief that West Point should put politics and currently trendy theories aside to ensure that the Army’s future leaders are as well prepared as possible to go into harm’s way.
As I noted in Part 1, I had hoped to get most of the information for this investigation directly from West Point officials. Regrettably, the West Point administration provided no assistance to me in this endeavor, despite my repeated requests, previously detailed in Part 1. As I noted in my second request to West Point’s Public Affairs Office, their lack of response would only fuel charges that the West Point administration was trying to cover-up a series of questionable decisions. The West Point Association of Graduates (AOG) provided some assistance and for that I am grateful. The following picks up where Part 1 left off, on the issues I felt were important to my investigation.
A key point of controversy has been reports of lecture slides titled, “White Power at West Point” and “Racist Dog Whistles at West Point.” Responding to these charges, West Point Superintendent LTG Darryl A. Williams advised that “These slides were a part of a mandatory social media training session conducted by our Public Affairs Office…” Further, “This training was conducted to give cadets a broad understanding of the social media landscape and allow cadets a glimpse into how various social media posts may be interpreted.” Whew! This response definitely stretches credulity to the limit. Could not the PAO have found two other far less inflammatory phrases exemplifying the “social media landscape” for cadets?
On 23 and 24 Sep 2020, LTG Williams conducted the 4th Honorable Living Day, which centered on eradicating racism, especially “hidden aspects of racism and cognitive bias.” Reportedly white police officers were described as “murderers” during this stand-down. LTG Williams has denied this accusation, allowing only that a cadet described how his father was beaten to death by (white?) police officers when he was six years old. LTG Williams provided no additional details on why, for example, police might have taken the action. It is unclear if the cadet provided any context for his father’s death.
LTG Williams has stated that only one elective course at the Academy, SS392 – “The Politics of Race, Gender, and Sexuality,” includes Critical Race Theory in its syllabus. Reportedly, the required textbook list includes: Richard Delgado’s Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, Susan Ferguson’s Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Social Class: Dimensions of Inequality and Identity, and Nikki Sullivan’s A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory. (Author’s comment: “Queer Theory” – really? Given the Afghanistan debacle, perhaps that time could be better spent teaching future Army officers how to fight wars.)
West Point officials did not respond to my questions on when this course was first added to the curriculum and who teaches it. A 28 July 2021 article in the far-left publication Slate stated that this class was incorporated into the curriculum in 1999. West Point’s Course Catalog confirms that Dr. Rachel Yon, the Executive Officer of West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center, teaches the course.
Perhaps of note, but to be taken with a healthy degree of caution, a military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said that leftist courses were instituted during the tenure of BG Cindy Jebb, appointed West Point’s Academic Dean in June 2016, according to her Wikipedia article, “by President Obama.” In a 25 Aug 2016 interview upon assuming the position of Academic Dean, BG Jebb advised that one of her priorities would be “…incorporating diversity and inclusivity into the culture of West Point.” Seems like she followed through on that goal.
In October 2017, LTC (Ret.) Robert M. Heffington wrote a scathing open letter regarding a deterioration in standards at West Point. LTC Heffington is a West Point graduate, class of 1997, and had served two tours as an instructor at West Point (2006-2009) and (2013-2017).
Of note for this investigation, LTC Heffington wrote, “The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus completely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression. Cadets derisively call it the ‘I Hate America Course.’ Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes.”
Interestingly, then COL Jebb was head of the Social Sciences Department for approximately four years prior to assuming the position of Academic Dean. The History Department would have been under her purview during LTC Heffington’s second tour at West Point.
On 03 Feb 2021, newly confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin mandated that within 60 days all subordinate elements in the DoD must schedule a “stand-down” to combat “extremism in the U.S. military.” West Point officials did not respond to my queries on when West Point conducted this stand-down and what specific topics were covered.
However, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) published a memo dated 27 Mar 2021 entitled “Extremism and Insider Threat in the DoD” which highlighted the threat from “Patriot Extremism.”
In addition, the memo conflated what it termed Christian extremism with white supremacy. (Christianity was the only religion mentioned in the DARPA publication.) An AOG official said he did not know if West Point had used this memo as part of the DoD mandated stand-down.
On 09 Jun 2021, House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Michael Waltz (FL-6) sent a second letter to LTG Williams regarding the teaching of CRT at West Point. The Superintendent’s earlier response to questions did not, in Rep. Waltz’s view, provide sufficient substantive details. As of the drafting of this article, I could find no evidence that the Superintendent responded to Rep. Waltz’s second request for information.
On 26 July 2021, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense for the Academy’s failure to respond to the Freedom of Information (FOIA) query made by Judicial Watch on 06 Apr 2021, which had requested details of cadet training. By law, a federal agency has 20 days to respond to a FOIA request. If the federal agency believes there to be extenuating circumstances which would delay a full response, then the agency must note those circumstances and provide a timeframe for responding.
West Point confirmed receipt of the FOIA request on 26 Apr 2021 and assigned tracking number FP-21-016151. At that point, West Point began stonewalling – refusing to respond to the FOIA request. At my request, an official at the Association of Graduates queried West Point’s Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) office regarding the lawsuit. In response the SJA stated it had no comment, due to the ongoing litigation.
In summary, while it seems inconceivable that West Point would boldly ignore appeals for information from a member of the House Armed Services Committee, even more alarming is West Point’s apparent violation of the law in stonewalling the FOIA request.
Many believe that the West Point administration has buckled under political pressure from the Biden administration; deciding that currying favor with the current administration and pushing their “progressive” (dare we say “woke”) agenda is more important than troop morale and unit cohesion in the Army. If so – Shame!!!