Outrage as Republican says 1921 Tulsa massacre not racially motivated

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The state official in charge of Oklahoma schools is facing impeachment calls, after saying teachers should tell students the Tulsa race massacre was not racially motivated.

In a public forum on Thursday, Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, said teachers could cover up the 1921 massacre, in which white Tulsans murdered about 300 black people, but teachers shouldn’t not “say skin color determined it”.

Walters is a pro-Trump Republican who was elected to oversee education in Oklahoma in November. He consistently engaged in right-wing talking points, including “woke ideology” and said critical race theory should not be taught in classrooms. Republicans have often confused banning critical race theory with banning any discussion of racial history in classrooms.

At the Norman, Oklahoma forum, Walters was asked how massacre could “not fall” into his broad CRT definition.

“I would never tell a child that because of your race, your skin color, your gender or anything like that, you are less of a person or are inherently racist.

“That doesn’t mean you don’t judge the actions of individuals. Oh, you absolutely can. Historically, you should: “It was true. It was wrong. They did it for this reason.

“But to say it was inherent in it…because of their skin, that’s where I say it’s a critical theory of race. You say race defines a person. I reject that.

“So I would say you’re making a judgment about the issue, the action, the content, the character of the individual, absolutely. But let’s not tie that to skin color and say skin color is the determined.

The Frontier, an Oklahoma-based investigative journalism organization, reported Walters comments.

Speaking to the Guardian, Alicia Andrews, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, called Walters “ridiculous”.

“How are you going to talk about a racial massacre as if race was not part of the very cause of the incident? Andrews said.

“I would like him to be impeached, because he forgot that his job is that of superintendent of public instruction. Most of his actions have been with his direct intent to destroy public education in favor of consolidating private and charter schools with taxpayer dollars. For me, this is a clear failing.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, a state agency, the massacre is “considered the worst incident of racial violence in American history.”

The massacre saw white mobs burn down the black neighborhood of Greenwood, Tulsa, and kill hundreds of black people.

About 10,000 black residents lived in Greenwood, which had a thriving business district, known as Black Wall Street, and was one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the United States.

After a 19-year-old black man was falsely accused of sexual assault, white people, some of them state conscripts, launched an offensive on Greenwood, destroying homes and businesses 35 blocks away.

A Red Cross investigation found that more than 1,000 homes were burned down during the massacre.

“Thirty-five city blocks were systematically looted and then burned to the ground,” the report said. “And the population of 12,000 scattered like straw before the wind.”

In a text, Walters, who previously pushed a conspiracy theory that schools had installed litter boxes in classrooms to accommodate children who identified as cats, said “the media distorts” his about.

He provided two audio files which, upon review, confirmed what he said during Thursday’s forum.

Walters said:[The media] misrepresented my statements about the Tulsa race massacre in an effort to create false controversy.

“Let me be perfectly clear that history must be taught with precision.

“1. The Tulsa Race Massacre is a terrible mark in our history. The events of that day were racist, evil and inexcusable. Individuals are responsible for their actions and must be held accountable.

“2. Children should never feel bad or say they are inferior because of the color of their skin.

Kevin Stitt, the Republican governor of Oklahoma, did not respond to questions about Walters’ position.

Andrews said Walters was “intentionally watering down the story”.

“As a black woman, as a black woman who lives in Tulsa, these remarks were particularly touching and close to home,” Andrews said.

“The Tulsa race massacre was absolutely racially motivated. Absolutely, 100%, race driven.

“And I don’t even know how you pretend to talk about it without mentioning his motivation.” How are you going to talk about a racial massacre as if race was not part of the very cause of the incident? »

She added, “We have to learn from our history so that we don’t repeat it.”

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