The U.S. Navy’s White Fragility

Implementing the Commander-in-Chief’s Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, the Secretary of the Navy, on November 4, issued a directive stating, “The [Department of the Navy] shall suspend all civilian and military personnel training relating to diversity and inclusion.” It is important to note that educational training on diversity and inclusion are still permitted to take place as long as the training curriculum is grounded in the “commitment to the fair and equitable treatment of individuals before the law and expresses the policy that the United States will not promote race and sex stereotyping” and must receive approval of the assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

This fleet-wide directive was promulgated as a response to the founding premise of the Task Force One Navy, created on June 30. In its initial press statement, it declares that “the task force will seek to promptly address the full spectrum of systemic racism,” and the mandatory training requirement set forth by the superintendent of the United States Naval Academy as outlined in an internal email to the brigade:

Training sessions about the importance of diversity to our institution are scheduled for all classes of midshipmen throughout the fall semester; all faculty and staff will also be trained on diversity, equity and inclusion… with the goal of proposing a plan to resolve these issues of privilege, bias, and racial injustice.

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In the aftermath of the superintendent’s proposal, many Naval Academy alumni, both former and active duty military officers, raised several fair and acceptable questions. What does the training curriculum consist of? Who will teach the mandatory class? Will dissenting opinion be allowed? The possibility of inviting Robin DiAngelo, author of the bestseller White Fragility, to speak at the academy was not to be ruled out. The current Commandant of Midshipmen, in his daily Instagram post, featured the book which contains the following excerpt: “A positive white identity is an impossible goal, there is nothing to be done except strive to be less white.”

In the waning years of the Obama Administration, when identity politics was injected into the bloodstream of American public discourse, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at American University partnered with the Naval Academy to host “safe space workshops.” According to the center’s promotional material, such a workshop “seeks to create a safer and more inclusive campus environment for all members of the campus community by reducing heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia.” Every academic year, two sessions, on a volunteer basis, were offered with approximately twenty personnel in attendance, consisting of faculty, active duty officers, and midshipmen. To find out what exactly was taught in the safe space workshop to future Navy and Marine Corps officers, I decided to attend the fall session of 2016.

Unsurprisingly, the workshop focused primarily on the transgender movement. The American University lecturer brought up a diagram of “the gingerbread person,” which was categorized into four distinct parts: identity, attraction, sex, and expression. Gender identity was placed on a scale between woman-ness and man-ness; gender expression, between femininity and masculinity; and anatomical sex, between female-ness and male-ness. One’s standing on the scales was always shifting and was subject to change depending on one’s sexual development against specifically heterosexual, traditional norms. The diagram also declared that “identity ≠ expression ≠ sex, and gender ≠  sexual orientation.”

When I asked the presenter of his arguments in the face of conscientious objections, grounded in religious faith and personal convictions informed by elementary biology, the question was dressed down and ignored. I realized then how easily the military succumbed to the latest fashionable progressive dogmas, which allowed no dissent and serious examination. I also realized the incalculable harm that this totalitarian mindset, devoid of any pursuit of the truth, would bring to the health and vitality of those dedicated to the defense of the nation. Unfortunately, what occurred in the past is set to be repeated again in the coming months.

A document detailing Joe Biden’s “Early Executive Actions” was leaked from the Glover Park Group, a progressive establishment consulting company reportedly engaging with the Biden transition team. The document states that, on the subject of “race, justice and diversity,” an executive action would be signed to “rescind Trump E.O. suspending diversity training programs for federal employees and contractors.” According to the USA Today, “A Joe Biden administration would likely scrap an executive order from the Trump administration that restricts the federal government and its contractors from offering diversity training that President Donald Trump labeled ‘divisive’ and ‘un-American.’”

Given the new reality that is fast approaching, I would not be surprised if the Naval Academy established a new partnership with American University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion to host the latter’s featured workshop for the fall of 2020 titled, “Our Role in Dismantling White Supremacy: A Workshop for White Students.” According to the literature, this is a program “for white students to reflect on their work on campus, understanding of white supremacy culture, and create plans to center racial justice work in their communities.” How this training would form more effective warfighters in the 21st century against an aggressive communist China and unstable Middle East is beyond any rational explanation.

Critical Race Theory—the target of President Trump’s Executive Order—is unequivocally rooted in the Marxist class struggle paradigm between the “oppressed” and the “oppressor.” Examples of racism can still be found in our communities and it must be addressed; but, as James Lindsay writes in Cynical Theories, we should “deny that Critical Race Theory and intersectionality provide the most useful tools to do so” and “deny that the best way to deal with racism is by restoring social significance to racial categories and radically heightening their salience.” Instead, Lindsay argues that “each individual can choose not to hold racist views and should be expected to do so… and that the principle of not discriminating by race should be universally upheld.” I pray that the future presidential administration takes heed of this dignified approach to racial relations and dams the downpour of identity politics flooding into our military institutions.


  • Francis Lee

    Francis Lee is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He has served on two deployments in the South China Sea as part of Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Japan. His writing has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Catholic World Report, and OnePeterFive. The views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Department of Defense (DoD).

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