The Seattle school district claims that the U.S. education system is guilty of “spirit murder” against black children.
According to whistleblower documents I’ve obtained from the session, the trainers begin by claiming that the teachers are colonizers of “the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Puget Sound Coast Salish People.” Then, next to an image of the Black Power fist, they claim that “the United States was built off the stolen labor of kidnapped and enslaved Black people’s work, which created the profits that created our nation.”
In the presentation materials, the organizers of the session identify themselves by both gender pronouns and race labels. For example, one speaker is identified as “He/Him, White,” while another is identified as “She/her pronouns, Black (half Black and half White).” It has become commonplace in academia to use gender-pronoun identifiers, but the expectation for explicit race-labeling in the workplace appears to be novel.
The central message is that white teachers must recognize that they “are assigned considerable power and privilege in our society” because of their “possession of white skin.” Consequently, to atone for their collective guilt, white teachers must be willing to reject their “whiteness” and become dedicated “anti-racist educator[s].”
The trainers acknowledge that this language might meet resistance from white teachers. They explain that any negative emotional reaction to being denounced for “whiteness” is an automatic response from the white teachers’ “lizard-brain,” which makes them “afraid that [they] will have to talk about sensitive issues such as race, racism, classism, sexism, or any kind of ‘ism.’” The trainers insist that the teachers “must commit to the journey,” regardless of their emotional or intellectual hesitations.
In the most disturbing portion of the session, the teachers discussed “spirit murder,” which, according to Bettina Love, is the concept that American schools “murder the souls of Black children every day through systemic, institutionalized, anti-Black, state-sanctioned violence.” Love, who originated the concept, declares that the education system is “invested in murdering the souls of Black children,” even in the most ostensibly progressive institutions.
The goal of these inflammatory “racial equity” programs is to transform Seattle schools into activist organizations. At the conclusion of the training, teachers must explain how they will practice “anti-racist pedagogy,” address the “current social justice movements taking place,” and become “anti-racist outside the classroom.” They are told to divide the world into “enemies, allies, and accomplices,” and work toward the “abolition” of whiteness. They must, in other words, abandon the illusion of neutral teaching standards and get in the trenches of race-based activism.
Unfortunately, this indoctrination is not an aberration—it reflects deep ideological currents within Seattle Public Schools. In recent years, the district has expanded its Department of Racial Equity Advancement and deployed “racial equity teams” in dozens of neighborhood schools. The stated goal is to “advance educational racial equity,” but in practice, these programs often serve to introduce, perpetuate, and enforce a specific ideological agenda.
This is a tragedy for students. Seattle public schools have been closed to on-campus learning since the early days of the Covid outbreak. In September, the school district reported that fewer than half of students attended any of the school’s remote instruction, with even worse attendance rates for minorities. Rather than address this crisis, which has doubtless expanded racial disparities, the district prioritized “white privilege” training for teachers.
Unless we see a change of course, this new orthodoxy—gradually replacing academics with activism—will cause educational disaster. School districts will subordinate traditional learning to the latest academic fads. When those inevitably fail, desperate teachers and administrators will be increasingly tempted to drop the old “three R’s” in favor of the new “three R’s”: racism, racism, and racism.
As Seattle’s public school administrators consume themselves with racial ideology, students will pay the price. Teachers can “bankrupt their privilege” in front of their colleagues, but their exhibitionism will do nothing for third-graders struggling to read or high school seniors preparing to graduate.
Seattle schools, which did not provide comment for this story, claim that they are “teaching tolerance.” If only. In truth, they are teaching hate.
Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He’s directed four documentaries for PBS, including his new film, America Lost, which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.