The writer remembers with respect and admiration Mr. Anthony E. “Tony” Hamilton (1957-2022), President of the VMI Class of 1979, joining many in the VMI community who are mourning his recent loss.

On January 18, 2022, three days after the inauguration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Richmond, Virginia – and for which the VMI Corps of Cadets passed-in-review, as is traditional – local radio host John Reid interviewed Mr. Carmen Villani (VMI, 1976) to get his views on the major cultural changes that have taken place at the Institute in the last two years. Reid asked, “Is the school stronger today, or weaker?” Villani answered by mentioning that Governor Youngkin appears to be off to a great start, and “. . . he’s being very aggressive in addressing Critical Race Theory [CRT], which is very troubling to me, which I think has entered into the VMI realm.” Villani, the VMI Honor Court President in 1976, who went on to a 31-year career in aviation, first as a U.S. Air Force pilot and, later, a commercial airline captain, proceeded to address the VMI leadership’s “appeasement” of Richmond under the previous governor whose charges in 2020 of an “appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at the school led to a costly investigation by a CRT-embracing law firm that to no one’s surprise agreed with the prejudged pronouncement. The interview lasted ten minutes. There was no intemperate language employed by either Reid or Villani, though Reid’s guest was very clear on what he considered to be the unacceptable behavior on the part of VMI’s leaders whose defense of the school against the unsubstantiated charges has been – at best – that of milquetoasts.

Note: unless, that is, they actually embrace CRT, in which case they have no intent to defend the institution they purportedly serve. The VMI Board of Visitors, to whom the superintendent reports, bears the greater responsibility while enjoying a relative anonymity. With the lone known exception of Mr. Bill Boland (VMI, 1973), the previous president who in October 2020 correctly and courageously stated, “. . . systemic racism does not exist here,” the board has failed to defend the Institute against unjust charges.[1]

In response to the radio program, three days later the VMI superintendent, retired Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins (VMI, 1985), chose to go on Facebook and verbally attack Villani, a private citizen with no official connection with the school. The superintendent wrote:

Since you chose to use my name and you misrepresented facts about the Institute and my administration, I think it warrants a response. You chose to go on a local Richmond radio show and say that CRT has entered into the VMI realm. That is categorically false. You were asked whether VMI has been weakened and you [responded] that VMI leadership had appeased and not defended the Institute.[2]

While there is no shortage of issues that might be addressed from the radio interview and the corresponding social media post, my aim here is narrow: to present the traditional, long-accepted definitions of terms which, if redefined – as many do today without legitimate grounds – completely undermines the ability to even discuss the issues that supposedly are the main concern for the good of society. Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Greek historian Thucydides chronicled the course of the long-running Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) between Sparta and Athens and their allies. He wrote,

To fit in with the change of events [the revolutions in various cities], words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.[3]

Why mention Thucydides? Because CRT advocates have done as some of the ancient Greeks, changing the “usual meanings” of words. Take the prominent words in CRT talk of “structural,” “systemic,” and – perhaps a distant third – “institutional.” The mega-wealthy CRT industry has changed those words to mean something quite different than those conditions, processes, mechanisms, or structures that are internal to, woven into, or inseparable from a given system, institution, or entity. Rather, the arbitrary, subjective, and illegitimate CRT redefinition of “structural” or “systemic” – used interchangeably by CRT – is simply any (white oppressor) individual’s word or action which is deemed offensive or harmful to one of the “oppressed.” (I’m not sure if we’ve reached the Orwellian phenomenon of “facecrime,” which is any facial expression that hints at subversion, or, in the present context, fails properly to adore CRT ideology or its agitators, and is, therefore, punishable by cancellation, or worse.)

With the tragic evacuation from Afghanistan last year perhaps still fresh in the minds of readers, two examples of the traditional, rational usage of systemic will suffice. For years the United States and Coalition members had military advisors with the Afghan army and air force that sought to upgrade their indigenous capabilities. One U.S. Army commander of the train-advise-assist enterprise stated that providing the Afghans with C-130 Hercules transport aircraft “would not have corrected systemic [Afghan Air Force] command and control deficiencies, insufficient maintenance hours, lack of training, and an overall lack of commitment.” Correctly, his use of systemic referred to internal conditions and/or processes that were inseparable from the institution in view, in this case the Afghan Air Force. It had nothing to do with the one-time or occasional word, decision, or action – good, bad, or indifferent – of one or a very small group of Afghan Air Force members, which would be CRT’s rendering of the issue. In one prescient assessment in 2014 regarding the likely course of events in Afghanistan, the author pointed toward “capability gaps” in the Afghan government’s security forces: “. . . these are systemic gaps in capability that can be mitigated via materiel solutions but not closed by them. We therefore conclude that . . . advisors – will be essential to [Afghan security force] success through at least 2018.” Again, the traditional, recognized usage of systemic points to conditions, processes, or other internal mechanisms woven into the institution, the Afghan security forces – not the actions of an individual within the institution.[4]

The fact remains, as has been the case since 2020 when allegations of systemic-structural racism at VMI first appeared, that every example employed in the accusations has been, not systemic in nature, but, rather, an individual or occasional example of racism. Such instances are offensive, and they ought not to be overlooked – but they are not systemic-structural in nature. Although a comparison with a seemingly unending, costly (not only in dollars), and, in the end, utterly failed attempt to prove “Russian collusion” several years ago is tempting, please note that nearly two years of allegations against VMI, to include wasting $1 million of Virginia taxpayers’ money, has ended up similarly – an utter failure. There is not one example in the governor’s 2021 Barnes and Thornburg report that rightly constitutes systemic-structural racism. Not . . . one.

Then what is it that drives CRT – and its accompanying Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEI) doctrine – in Virginia, in Richmond, and even at VMI? Allow the experts to speak for themselves. While two years ago, probably most Americans – including Virginians – either had not heard of CRT/DEI or knew little about it, today that has changed. Many are aware of CRT/DEI’s divisive, fraudulent, destructive nature. A number of highly accomplished scholars, academicians, pastors, and other writers have addressed the CRT/DEI malaise. In alphabetical order, by surname, here is a miniscule selection from the plethora available today:

Voddie Baucham: “CRT . . . is a worldview [that assumes the ‘oppressor-oppressed dynamic’]. . . . There is nothing that I’m aware of that we can glean from CRT. . . . DEI is . . . tied to CRT in the way that your brain is tied to your body.”[5]

Victor Davis Hanson: “Equity in our Orwellian world is not equality, but payback.”[6]

James Lindsay: “Critical Race Theorists believe it is their obligation to rewrite history to tell it from the perspective of [CRT] (even if factually inaccurate – because of the reliance on narratives and counterstories) rather than fact-based or official history, which is deemed to have been written from within the ‘white racial frame,’ which is believed to uphold systemic racism and white supremacy.”[7]

Christopher Rufo: “There are a series of euphemisms deployed . . . to describe [CRT], including ‘equity,’ ‘social justice,’ ‘diversity and inclusion.’ . . . Critical race theorists . . . realize that ‘neo-Marxism’ would be a hard sell. Equity, on the other hand, sounds non-threatening and is easily confused with the American principle of equality. . . . In contrast to equality, equity as defined and promoted by critical race theorists is little more than reformulated Marxism.”[8]

Thomas Sowell: “The mystical benefits of diversity are non-existent, however politically correct it is to proclaim such benefits.”[9]

Carol Swain: “The greatest threat to American society today . . . is coming from the [DEI] industry. It is steeped in Critical Race Theory, which is Marxist. It divides people.”[10]

The above sampling makes clear the inseparable linkage between CRT and DEI – the latter tied to the former like the brain to the body, or DEI “steeped” in CRT – “which is Marxist.” With the CRT-DEI affiliation having been established, a survey of VMI’s May 2021 report, One Corps – One VMI: A Unifying Action Plan is instructive. While a detailed analysis is beyond my scope, the 14-page document includes numerous references promoting “diversity, equity and inclusion,” a VMI culture “diverse, equitable and inclusive,” and touts “diversity, equal opportunity, inclusion and accountability.” The use of “equal opportunity” in lieu of “equity” in several spots is intriguing, because the two differ widely in the CRT dictionary. Let us offer the benefit of the doubt that the actual intent is, indeed, “equal opportunity” rather than CRT’s “equity,” which has nothing to do with opportunity but with sameness of outcome.[11]

In short, after the last two years’ mounting evidence, in 2022 for anyone in leadership at VMI to deny “categorically” that CRT is presently an influence on the VMI post must either be, 1), ill-informed; 2), disingenuous; or, 3), a stealthy advocate of CRT, or, in other words, a quiet neo-Marxist. But regardless of the explanation, to those who still deal with facts and the long-accepted definitions of words, the denial is demonstrably – and, categorically – false. Has CRT entered into the VMI realm? Sadly, undeniably, yes. It has.


[1] Letter, Gov. Ralph Northam to VMI Board of Visitors, Oct. 19, 2020; “VMI board says ‘with deep regret’ that superintendent is out,” Associated Press, Oct. 26, 2020; Forrest L. Marion with Carmen D. Villani, “An Independent Investigation of Racism at VMI?” Abbeville Institute, Feb. 10, 2021, accessed at

[2] Cedric Wins, “VMI Family – Parents, Corps, Alumni, and Friends,” Facebook, Jan. 21, 2022.

[3] Rex Warner, trans., Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War (London and New York: Penguin Books, 1972 [translation copyright, 1954]), 242-45.

[4] Document, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, [History Office], Shaw AFB, S.C.; Jonathan Schroden, “Five Years Ago, We Assessed The War In Afghanistan For Congress: How Did We Do?” War On The Rocks, Dec. 18, 2018.

[5] Voddie Baucham, “Critical Race Theory: The Fault Lines of Social Justice,” Heritage Foundation, Jun. 10, 2021.

[6] Victor Davis Hanson, “Wokeism Is a Cruel and Dangerous Cult,” American Greatness, Jan. 23, 2022.

[7] James Lindsay, “Critical Race Theory: A Two-page Overview,” New Discourses, Apr. 29, 2021.

[8] Christopher F. Rufo, “Critical Race Theory: What It Is and How to Fight It,” Imprimis, vol. 50, no. 3 (Mar. 2021).

[9] Thomas Sowell, Dismantling America: and Other Controversial Essays (New York: Basic Books, 2010 [2002]), chap. 20 (audiobook).

[10] Carol Swain, “The Ingraham Angle,” Fox News Channel, Feb. 17, 2021.

[11] Cedric T. Wins, One Corps – One VMI: A Unifying Action Plan (Lexington, Va.: VMI, May 2021).


Forrest L. Marion

Forrest L. Marion graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a BS degree in civil engineering. He earned an MA in military history from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in American history from the University of Tennessee. Since 1998, Dr. Marion has served as a staff historian and oral historian at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Commissioned in 1980, he retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 2010. Forrest L. Marion graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a BS degree in civil engineering. He earned an MA in military history from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in American history from the University of Tennessee.

One Comment

  • Taylor Hay says:

    I, Taylor Hay, speak for myself, not for my class of 1951. However, I feel that most of my few remaining Brother Rats will agree to some degree with what I write.

    I was the last VMI cadet to run the gauntlet. I purposely stood back to being last person so there was no one in the courtyard to slow me down. When the courtyard full of upperclassmen holding hay role straps stiffened with wire coat hangers then soaked in water saw me standing alone in Washington Arch all I heard was a chorus curses using my name in vain with one screaming, “Let’s get that son-of a !!!!”

    Learning in advance this was to be gauntlet day I skipped eating a special lunch of better than average food, smuggled a pair of tennis shoes for speed and a hard bound book to protect my rear.

    So when I faced the courtyard full of faces bent on beating me to death I wasn’t afraid. I was prepared. According to an article in Enquire Magazine resourcefulness was the key to VMI graduate’s success as leaders in war. That day I used my resources.

    One of my roommates General Rufus Lazzell was a good example–two Silver Stars and multiple Purple Hearts…Look him up. Or call me at 502.226.3632 or email me at [email protected] and I’ll tell you what he did that is not recorded.

    Not one bone breaking strap touched me in the courtyard…All I heard was Oh, !!!!, !!! Damn, Son of a !!!!!. And all I felt was the air kicked up by wizzing of near misses. Then I zig zagged into the line of hopeful beaters with out getting hit until I reached the steps to the second floor where there was a pile up with upper class men beating our roundest, heaviest brother rat, Tex Morton, who was lying on top of several of our brother rats.

    I climbed over the pile to the second floor and just as I straightened up to run, the back of my left leg was almost paralyzed by a loaded strap. I limped dragging my leg getting beaten and barely made it to the third floor where my brother rats kept cheering us on.

    A mother of one of our brother rats watched her son being carried out on a stretcher, paralyzed by a kidney blow. The Richmond Times Dispatch made her story front page.

    The end of the VMI gauntlet.

    I believe the gauntlet has been replace by having to climb a muddy hill.

    Just as the gauntlet was replaced by a mud slide, the values that built VMI into producing Citizen Soldiers whose graduates supposedly had more generals in WWII, Korea and Vietnam than West Point are supposedly being replaced by a government not only allowing, but encouraging certain factions to not only tear down statues of great leaders that graced VMI’s arches, but are rewriting history to suit the cowards that hide behind the skirts of our present state and national governments.

    Sadly, those VMI men, who defended our freedom and sacrificed themselves beginning with the Battle of New Market are dead and forgotten. The average class graduated fifty percent of its original number before an in 1951…The number of cadets are now about double and I have heard that the graduating percentage is up to close to eighty percent…an adult nursery designed for the weakest rather than an institute structured for the strongest

    It is my hope and prayer that in the future the VMI Spirit will again emerge in a form that will once again train a select number of graduates capable of defending our freedom.

    But my fear is the warning that could have been spoken by Hitler: Give the minds of your children and I will rule the world.

    Respectfully, Taylor Hay Class of 1951

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