Signs of the Spirit of America

Punished for Resisting a Narrative, One Mom Turns Down $1M to Retain Her Voice

Jennifer Sey, former Levi’s global brand president, resigned under duress from the company she loved and worked for for more than two decades. Her unredeemable sin? She acted on her motherly instinct and suggested San Francisco Public Schools return to in-person schooling. She has championed many progressive causes in the past and even voted for Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic primary. Nevertheless, the woke mob inside her own company came after her.

When the covid pandemic hit, she started to publicly question the policy of shutting down schools. Her concern for disadvantaged children in public schools motivated her to take action. She wrote on Bari Weis’s Substack, Common Sense:

I wrote op-eds, appeared on local news shows, attended meetings with the mayor’s office, organized rallies and pleaded on social media to get the schools open. I was condemned for speaking out. This time, I was called a racist—a strange accusation given that I have two black sons—a eugenicist, and a QAnon conspiracy theorist.

This is what you get if you dare to speak your opinions on certain things nowadays. Instead of being challenged in an open debate, you get “stoned” with all kinds of name-calling. Many liberals like her have endured similar treatment from a minority of very vocal left extremists.

In October 2020, when it was clear that the San Francisco public schools were not going to open that fall, she proposed to her company leadership that they weigh in on the closure, similar to how they had taken stands in the past on issues affecting their employees. She wrote:

The response this time was different. “We don’t weigh in on hyper-local issues like this,” I was told. “There’s also a lot of potential negatives if we speak up strongly, starting with the numerous execs who have kids in private schools in the city.”

So, she uprooted her family and moved to Denver so her kindergartner could finally experience in-person learning. She could choose to put her child in a private school just like her colleagues, but she also believed in public education and cared about the disadvantaged children whose parents could not afford private education.

Then she committed the “unspeakable sin.” She accepted an invitation to be on the Laura Ingraham show on Fox News. That was the last straw for Levi’s. Fellow employees called her anti-science, anti-fat, anti-trans, and racist.

All of that took place at company meetings. Then she got really special treatment:

Meantime, the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the company asked that I do an “apology tour.” I was told that the main complaint against me was that “I was not a friend of the Black community at Levi’s.” I was told to say that “I am an imperfect ally.” (I refused.)

This was what happened in the Cultural Revolution in China. The political officers would force you to “criticize” yourself if you expressed your thoughts that were not in line with the official party narrative. If you refused, you would lose your job and have to be re-educated through hard labor.

What happened next reminds me of Mao’s China:

Every day, a dossier of my tweets and all of my online interactions were sent to the CEO by the head of corporate communications. At one meeting of the executive leadership team, the CEO made an off-hand remark that I was “acting like Donald Trump.” I felt embarrassed and turned my camera off to collect myself.

What made her sad is that the company she worked for and believed in has changed for the worse:

It’s trapped trying to please the mob—and silencing any dissent within the organization. In this it is like so many other American companies: held hostage by intolerant ideologues who do not believe in genuine inclusion or diversity.

Fortunately for Ms. Sey, this is America. She still had some choice. Although the CEO told her that it was “untenable” for her to stay at Levi’s, she was offered a severance package of $1 million dollars in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement. She turned down the money and is speaking out about what happened.

Perhaps what made her much sadder is that those she helped in the past kept silent. She lamented:

In my more than two decades at the company, I took my role as manager most seriously. I helped mentor and guide promising young employees who went on to become executives. In the end, no one stood with me. Not one person publicly said they agreed with me, or even that they didn’t agree with me, but supported my right to say what I believe anyway.

It is almost a cliché now that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” but being a cliché does not make it less true. Americans have never lived under tyranny since the founding of their republic. But the past two years have given them a taste.

In February, three members of the San Francisco Board of Education were recalled for their policy of keeping schools closed. I hope Ms. Sey feels some vindication.

Parents now are fighting back. As an immigrant who lived under tyranny, I see the American Spirit is still alive.

grew up during China's Cultural Revolution and immigrated to the US in 1995. He became a high school math teacher after having worked as an engineer for 20 years. Disillusioned with the current schooling model, he became an independent math teacher/tutor in 2018. He writes mainly on education and culture.

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