The nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism have caused many long-standing American institutions to look inward and figure out how they can do the bare minimum to support the cause. The Marines have ordered the removal of Confederate flags from their bases; the Army has expressed openness to the idea of renaming bases named after Confederate generals; and now, the Navy has joined in with its own performative gesture.
CNN reports that an order is being crafted to ensure the removal of all Confederate iconography from Navy institutions. “The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, has directed his staff to begin crafting an order that would prohibit the Confederate battle flag from all public spaces and work areas aboard Navy installations, ships, aircraft and submarines,” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, Gilday’s spokesperson, said in a statement.
Initially, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley expressed openness to holding bipartisan discussions to rename approximately a dozen military bases named after Confederate generals—but President Trump shut that shit down with the quickness, though. In a series of tweets sent out Wednesday, the president said: “my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations…”
If I seem cynical about these moves, well, that’s because I am. While these are cute gestures, until the military makes active efforts to combat white nationalism within its ranks, the gestures will ring hollow. Last year, a measure designed to combat white nationalism in the armed forces had the phrase “white nationalism” removed. In March, an active duty member of the Army plotted with a white nationalist to bomb a Kansas City hospital as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified. There’s a clear problem here that the military just seems content to ignore.
It’s nice they’re removing some flags, though.