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US Navy cuts ‘woke’ ‘anti-American’ books from official reading list

U.S. Navy sailors stand on the deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
May 10, 2022

The U.S. Navy recently cut several books, including a number of racially charged titles, from its official reading list after lawmakers criticized their inclusion last year as “woke,” “anti-American” and “leftist propaganda.”

On Friday, the Navy announced an “update” to the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO’s) Professional Reading Program (PRP) — the service’s official reading list.

“The CNO-Professional Reading Program consists of 12 books, and is a mix of writing genres including fiction, non-fiction, military, strategy, management, and technology, among others,” CNO Adml. Mike Gilday said in a statement announcing the latest version of the reading list. “The goal of the program is to contribute to a culture dedicated to warfighting and learning, while simultaneously supporting the personal and professional development of Sailors beyond that of their primary designator or rating.”

Absent from the new reading list were several titles added in the 2021 version of the list, including Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist,” Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and Jason Pierceson’s “Sexual Minorities and Politics.” Those books appeared in a version of the reading list that had been on the Navy’s website as recently as April. An archived link shows those books included in a larger selection of 37 books.

Gilday’s statement accompanying the release of the latest version of the reading list made no mention of why the list was reduced from 37 books to 12, or why certain titles were removed.

Last year, several Republican lawmakers called for Gilday to remove books like “How to Be an Antiracist” from the Navy’s official reading list. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who currently serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve, sent a letter last year saying the book is “anti-American” because according to Kendi “America is fundamentally racist, so anti-Americanism is a moral imperative.”

In his February 2021 letter, Banks wrote that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, “but according to Kendi, racial discrimination isn’t inherently bad, in fact, it’s just as likely to be good. He explains: ‘If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.” Banks said the book further claims capitalism is inherently racist.

Banks also wrote that Kendi has espoused racist views himself, such as saying Europeans are socialized to be aggressive and “raised to be racist” and conspiracy theories that white people are responsible for the AIDS virus and are actually aliens.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, had also joined the lawmakers voicing opposition to the 2021 reading list.

“I can’t believe this is happening to the Navy I love: pushing overtly leftist propaganda on their OFFICIAL reading list, threatening the longstanding tradition of political neutrality,” Crenshaw tweeted in March of last year. “The Chief of Naval Operations needs to correct this. Retweet if you agree: no more woke BS.”

Gilday kept the books in the reading list in 2021 despite the initial backlash. In response to Banks’ 2021 letter, Gilday said he put “How to Be Antiracist” on the reading list because “it evokes the author’s own personal journey in understanding barriers to true inclusion, the deep nuances of racism and racial inequalities” and because he wants Navy sailors to pursue the same level of self-reflection.

When challenged about various passages from Kendi’s book in a June 2021 congressional hearing, Gilday said, “I’m not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book.”

“This is a bigger issue than Kendi’s book, what this is really about is trying to paint the United States military, and the United States Navy as weak, as woke,” Gilday added. “And we’ve had sailors that spent 341 days at sea last year with minimal port visits, the longest we’ve had. We are not weak, we are strong.”

The latest version of the PRP reading list includes:

  1. “To Rule the Waves” by Bruce Jones
  2. “A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy” by James Holmes
  3. “China as a 21st Century Naval Power” by Michael. A. McDevitt
  4. “Not One Inch” by Mary E. Sarotte
  5. “The Sailor’s Bookshelf: Fifty Books to Know the Sea” by Admiral James G. Stavridis
  6. “Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War” by Paul Scharre
  7. “Fortune Favors Boldness” by Barry Costello
  8. “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour” by James Hornfischer
  9. “World War II at Sea: A Global History” by Craig Symonds
  10. “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield” by Gayle T. Lemmon
  11. “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown
  12. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck