REPORT: Teachers Told To Locate Themselves On ‘Oppression Matrix’ During A Diversity Training, And One Person Fought Back

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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A public school in Missouri reportedly held a diversity training program for teachers who were told to identify themselves on an “oppression spectrum,” and then watched a video of “George Floyd’s last words,” Chris Rufo reported in City Journal.

Cherokee Middle School, which is part of the Springfield Public Schools, reportedly held the training for teachers, which began with a “land acknowledgment” that recognized the “Native and Indigenous Peoples whose land we currently gather on.”

“In doing social justice work, it is important we acknowledge the dark history and violence against Native and Indigneous People across the world,” the document reportedly said.

According to Rufo, who was notified about the event, the session was led by two diversity trainers, Jeremy Sullivan and Myki Williamson, which are names also listed in the school district’s directory. Both individuals are “learning specialists.”

The trainers then instructed the teachers to watch a 9-minute silent video of “George Floyd’s last words.” Sullivan then reportedly told the teachers that they would explore “oppressions, white supremacy, and systemic racism,” and provided them with a handout. 

The teachers were told to locate themselves on an “oppression matrix.” The “privileged social group” category included white people, Protestants, and “male assigned at birth.” “Oppressed social groups” include “transgender, genderqueer, intersex people” and “Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs.”

The trainers then gave another handout that differentiated “overt white supremacy” and “covert white supremacy.” The former includes lynching, racist jokes, and racial slurs, while “covert” white supremacy, which the document says is “socially acceptable,” includes “treating kids of color as adults,” “tone policing,” “claiming reverse racism,” and “education funding from property tax.”

The training that reportedly took place at Cherokee Middle School is similar to ones that have taken place at numerous other public schools across the country. At this school, however, Rufo was informed that one teacher, who is white and was raised by a black stepfather, pushed back against training.

“Is the district saying that we should be Marxists?” the teacher reportedly asked.

“While I don’t think there’s a person in the room who doesn’t agree that this is an important topic that should be dealt with, the way that it’s being framed comes from Herbert Marcuse who took and stripped all of the economic policies of Marxist theory and turned it into [cultural Marxism]. . . . I grew up the son of a black man, he raised me to believe in Dr. King’s teachings,” the teacher said after an hour of training, according to Rufo.

“Dr. King did not teach the kind of vitriol that we see out of Marxism, [which] has a long replete history of countries being bigoted and prejudiced against others and then murdering millions as a result.”

Sullivan then reportedly acknowledged that the program had Marxist inspiration, saying he was “aware of all that information,”  Rufo reported. “The goal here is to take a stand against racism, it’s not to be totalitarian . . . There’s not some big political agenda. It’s certainly not Marxism. It’s just let’s make sure that all of our kids are truly valued and celebrated.”

Springfield Public Schools responded to a request for comment Friday, and said the reports about the training were missing context.

Springfield Public Schools is pleased to provide robust professional development. This includes a focus on how to build welcoming learning environments for students and staff of all backgrounds. It is our responsibility and privilege to serve all people, ensuring every individual within our schools has an opportunity to thrive and achieve their full potential,” a school representative told the Daily Caller.

“Our commitment to all students and staff, including those who are under-resourced and underrepresented, is reflected in our strategic plan, which includes a focus on equity and diversity. Staff training encourages participants to consider how their individual journey may differ from the experiences of others. It provides a valuable perspective for all educators and support staff. Subsequent media coverage has inaccurately represented this training by reporting incorrect and/or incomplete information, without appropriate context.”

Jeremy Sullivan and Myki Williamson did not respond to requests for comment. 

Rufo reported earlier in January that a public elementary school in California had held a similar program, except the lesson was taught to elementary aged students who were asked to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities in order to understand “power and privilege.” (RELATED: REPORT: Public School Instructs Third Graders To Deconstruct Their Racial And Sexual Identities To Understand ‘Power And Privilege’)

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to include a statement from Springfield Public Schools.