The Oklahoma Superintendent of Schools is facing backlash after a discussion about Critical Race Theory in Norman, Oklahoma, on July 6.
Ryan Walters claimed that the Tulsa Race Massacre — the two-day slaughter of a town of Black people by white supremacists in 1921 — was not motivated by race. Walters was elected to the top education post in Oklahoma in November.
Walters was asked, “How does the Tulsa Race Massacre not fall under your definition of CRT?” and he responded that the massacre was not motivated by race.
“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 before going into his racist rant.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t judge the actions of individuals,” he continued. “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.”
The video was shared on Twitter by The Black Wall Street Times with the caption: “Not teaching that race played a role in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is negligent. White Supremacy is why the massacre wasn’t widely taught in schools for nearly 100 years. #RyanWalters is following tradition.”
The Tulsa Race Massacre is also known as the Tulsa Race Riots and took place on May 31 and June 1 of 1921. The massacre began after a Black man, Dick Rowland, was accused of assaulting a white elevator operator, Sarah Page, in Tulsa’s Drexel Building on May 30.
Rowland was arrested the following day, and a group of Black men went to the courthouse to protect him as a mob of white men descended on the scene. After shots were fired, the outnumbered group of Black men retreated back to their Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, which was also known as the Black Wall Street.
The white mob went to Greenwood and burned down the town while reportedly killing at least 300 Black people in the process. The charges against Rowland were later dropped. Because the killings were referred to as a race riot rather than a massacre, insurance companies did not have to pay benefits to the people whose homes and businesses were destroyed.
Walters was called out on social media for his views. One Twitter user noted that the Tulsa Race Massacre was genocide.
“Teaching the Tulsa Race Massacre as anything other than straight-up 100% white-on-black genocide is a lie,” they wrote.
A person with the Twitter account Tulsanity was concerned that the false narrative used by Walters could fuel white supremacy and shared a tweet by one ignorant Twitter user who wrote, “no bodies ever found as proof of this ‘Tulsa Race Massacre,’ which was called a riot as recently as 2 years ago.”
Tulsanity captioned the post, “I am disgusted seeing so many uneducated tweets like this one about the Tulsa Race Massacre. Not believing the TRM was a real event is exactly why this needs to be taught in schools. For those who think the TRM is a false narrative, take a look at these photos taken of it.”
Tulsanity also shared pictures of the massacre’s aftermath from the Tulsa Historical Society with the post, including a picture of a dead Black man in the street with the caption, “NEGRO SLAIN IN TULSA RIOT.”
Another user replied, “I am sooooooooooooooooo sick of history being whitewashed to make it palatable and guilt free. You can’t make atrocities into a sugar free, fat free delight.”
“They have been covering it up so bad they put a freeway over black Wall Street,” added another.
There are three survivors from the massacre, and a lawsuit was filed on their behalf back in 2020 for reparations. Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 108, Viola “Mother” Fletcher, 109, and 102-year-old Hughes Van Ellis are still waiting for reparations from the city.