Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters Faces Backlash After Tulsa Massacre Remarks

Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters Faces Backlash After Tulsa Massacre Remarks

Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters is being condemned for his controversial statements at a forum on July 6. Walters, a Republican conservative, spoke at the Norman, Oklahoma meeting, where attendees questioned how teaching about the 1921 Tulsa Massacre did not violate his ban on critical race theory in schools. 

“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. That doesn’t mean you don’t judge the actions of individuals. Oh, you can. Absolutely, historically, you should,” he said. “‘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.”

His statements were met with immediate backlash, inciting anger among those present and online. Walters’ words led to a flurry of social media responses, including from Samuel Perry, who was at the forum and is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma. Perry expressed his abhorrence at Walters’ claims. 

Walters’ account of the Tulsa tragedy is historically inaccurate. Scholars have long known that the Tulsa massacre was racist retaliation stemming from an allegation against 19-year-old Dick Rowland, who had been accused of assaulting a white woman, Sarah Page. The two-day-long killing spree, led by white supremacists, included the destruction of “Black Wall Street” and the murders of hundreds of Black Americans. Others were left homeless, with their houses burned to the ground. 

This is not a lone incident for the Oklahoma politician. In June, he was once again embroiled in scandal after calling for Christianity and “Western heritage” in classrooms, according to the Oklahoman. At the time, Walters claimed that allowing religion in schools would restore morality. “The current national left-wing indoctrination is attempting to destroy religion as a way to destroy our entire country,” he said.

Walters’ presence on Thursday was met with vitriol as impassioned Oklahoma residents pressed the superintendent about his extreme ideologies, including his book bans, according to KOKH Fox 25. Walters has received political ire for his right-wing stances since being appointed to this position in November 2022.