Oklahoma is witnessing outrage after the state superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters, instructed teachers to tell students that race was not the motive behind the Tulsa massacre.
After Walters said so in a public forum this week, he has been facing impeachment calls following his statement that urged teachers to cover the 1921 massacre but not “say that the skin color determined it”.
“I would never tell a kid that because of your race, because of the color of your skin, or your gender or anything like that, you are less of a person or are inherently racist”, he said, adding: “That doesn’t mean you don’t judge the actions of individuals. Oh, you can, absolutely. Historically, you should:
This was right. This was wrong. They did this for this reason.
But to say it was inherent in that … because of their skin is where I say that is critical race theory. You’re saying that race defines a person. I reject that. So I would say you be judgmental of the issue, of the action, of the content, of the character of the individual, absolutely. But let’s not tie it to the skin color and say that the skin color determined it.
Alicia Andrews, the chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, described Walters to the Guardian as “ridiculous”.
“How are you going to talk about a race massacre as if race isn’t part of the very cause of the incident?” she said, adding that she would “love for him to be impeached because he’s forgotten that his job is superintendent of public instruction. Most of his actions have been with his direct intent of destroying public education in favor of shoring up private and charter schools on public tax dollars. To me, that’s a clear dereliction.”
Oklahoma Historical Society, a state-run agency, said the massacre, which took place in 1921, is “believed to be the single worst incident of racial violence in American history”, as it saw white mobs set the Black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa ablaze and kill hundreds of Black people.
Greenwood was a thriving business district, known as Black Wall Street, and was one of the most affluent Black neighborhoods in the country.
A Red Cross investigation discovered that over 1,000 homes were burned. “Thirty-five city blocks were looted systematically, then burned to a cinder,” the report said.
And the 12,000 population there scattered like chaff before the wind.
The Greenwood Massacre aka Tulsa massacre is a two day event (May 31st – June 1st 1921). During this event 10,000 black residents were left homeless, over 300 died, and black folks lost millions in property damage for real estate and personal property. Our next series coming soon pic.twitter.com/Edid2XjwMv
— Soulrac (@Soulracmusic) October 30, 2022
According to The Guardian, a text by Walters said “the media is twisting” his remarks. Two audio files were provided which confirmed his statements at the forum on Thursday.
[The media] misrepresented my statements about the Tulsa race massacre in an attempt to create a fake controversy… Let me be crystal clear that history should be accurately taught.
1. The Tulsa race massacre is a terrible mark on our history. The events on that day were racist, evil, and it is inexcusable. Individuals are responsible for their actions and should be held accountable.
2. Kids should never be made to feel bad or told they are inferior based on the color of their skin.
Andrews said Walters was “intentionally watering down history”.
“As a Black woman, as a Black woman who lives in Tulsa, those remarks hit particularly hard and close to home,” she stated,
The Tulsa race massacre was absolutely motivated by race. Absolutely, 100%, motivated by race.
And I don’t even I don’t know how you pretend to talk about it without mentioning its motivation. How are you going to talk about a race massacre as if race isn’t part of the very cause of the incident?
We must learn from our history in order to not repeat it.