Sen. Tom Cotton said Thursday that the U.S. military‘s incorporation of critical race theory concepts in its training will weaken the bond between soldiers who rely on each other for their lives.
“If it harms unit cohesion or esprit de corps in the military, we’re literally risking our freedoms,” the Arkansas Republican said in an online forum sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
He said the teaching of the divisive academic theory would distract members of the military from what should be its main aim.
The military “should be focused on real wars,” he said. “Not the culture wars.”
Mr. Cotton said the military should not allow racism in its ranks. But he said it should do so in a less divisive way than through critical race theory.
“Why can’t we replay Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘content of character and not the color of our skin speech?’” he said.
Mr. Cotton, a decorated U.S. Army veteran for his service in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been a strong critic of the federal government supporting the teaching of the theory.
Critical race theory focuses on the idea that while individual White people may not be racists, aspects of the nation’s laws and institutions still work against people of color. It asserts that White people are privileged because they benefit from what’s known as systemic racism.
Mr. Cotton has introduced legislation barring federal education funds from going to schools that use The New York Times’ 1619 Project. The initiative has drawn fire for its focus on the importance of slavery in the nation’s history and for making the inaccurate claim that the nation fought for its independence because of a fear that Great Britain would end slavery in the colonies.
But while the teaching of the theory in schools has caused controversy around the country, Mr. Cotton said the potential for harm from embracing critical race theory is particularly dire in the military.
Mr. Cotton and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL, have tried in recent months to draw public attention to “woke” culture seeping into military training, particularly under the Biden administration, by collecting and making public anonymous complaints from service members.
Mr. Cotton, for instance, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month that one Marine told him that training on military history had been replaced with lessons on police brutality, White privilege, and systemic racism. He reported that several officers are now leaving his unit, citing that training.
Mr. Cotton said another service member reported that their unit had been required to read “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, which claims that “White people raised in Western society are conditioned in a White supremacist world view.’”
White supremacy in the context of critical race theory, however, refers to the idea that White people have enjoyed advantages due to their race, as opposed to referring to the beliefs of White supremacist groups.