In a controversial statement, Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters, has drawn widespread criticism after falsely claiming that the 1921 Tulsa race massacre was not motivated by race. Walters made these remarks during a forum held at the Norman Public Library on Thursday, sparking immediate backlash from the public.
When questioned about the accurate teaching of the notorious white supremacist massacre, which claimed the lives of as many as 300 Black people, Walters defended his stance against critical race theory. “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,” Walters said in response. He further argued against attributing the massacre to race, stating, “Let’s not tie it to the skin color and say the skin color determined it.”
The 1921 Tulsa race massacre is widely recognized as one of the most horrific acts of white supremacist terror in American history. The violence erupted when rumors circulated about an alleged interaction between a young Black man and a white woman, leading to a mob of white vigilantes, some deputized by Tulsa officials, destroying the prosperous Greenwood district. Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street, was a thriving center of Black business and culture at the time.
The massacre resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Black individuals, with over 800 injured and tens of thousands left homeless. Shockingly, despite the scale of the violence, no one was ever held accountable for the crimes committed during the massacre.
Walters’ remarks were met with swift condemnation from various quarters. Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist took to Twitter, affirming the commitment to teaching an accurate and comprehensive history of the city and the massacre. Congressional candidate Dennis Baker criticized Walters, accusing him of denying the racial motivations behind the massacre, likening his views to those of the Ku Klux Klan.
Critics of Walters expressed incredulity at his denial of the role race played in the violent events of that time. State Representative Monroe Nichols suggested on Twitter that Walters sympathized with the darkest moments in history and those who perpetuated them, making references to other historical atrocities.
The Independent has reached out to Mr. Walters for comment, but no response has been received as of yet.
The incident highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the teaching of critical race theory and the importance of an accurate understanding of historical events shaped by racial dynamics.
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