Jul. 11—Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters is firing back at media and critics, saying they took his comments about the Tulsa Race Massacre out of context, and that he does believe the 1921 destruction of the Greenwood District was motivated by racism.
Walters was met by protestors before he even stepped foot into the Norman Public Library for a Thursday meeting with Cleveland County Republicans. Walters has pushed education law, specifically House Bill 1775, that prevents public school teachers from instruction that could lead students to feel guilt about race.
He was asked Thursday about the Tulsa Race Massacre and how it could be taught within the boundaries of the new Oklahoma law.
Walters' answer was recorded digitally by at least one individual in attendance, Twitter user @MsValentine13, and posted to social media, where it soon went viral and caught national attention.
Walters on Friday told Fox 25's reporter David Chasanov that his comments were intentionally misconstrued.
"The Tulsa Race Massacre was a terrible, evil event perpetrated by folks that chose to act in a way that was evil and racist," Walters told Chasanov. "I said (at the event) it was evil, all of our kids need to know it and they need to judge the action of those people."
Chasanov then played Walters the viral clip from Thursday.
"I would never tell a kid that because of the color of your skin, because of your race or your gender or anything like that, that you are less of a person or are inherently racist," Walters says on the video. "That doesn't mean you don't judge the actions of individuals. You can, absolutely. Historically, you should. 'This was right. This was wrong. They did this for this reason.' But to say it was inherent because of their skin, is where I say that is Critical Race Theory. You're saying that race defines a person. I reject that. I say, you be judgmental of the issue of the action of content, of the character of the individual, absolutely. But let's not tie it to the skin color and the skin color determined it."
Chasanov told Walters after going through the clips that he did not hear Walters specifically say the Tulsa Race Massacre was "evil."
Walters said a man commenting at Thursday's meeting had called it evil, and Walters had verbally agreed with that man.
"What I was addressing directly, was him saying 'This isn't being taught.' I go, 'Everything you just said, our kids need to know that. It absolutely should be taught.'"
A reporter asked Ryan what his message would be for people who are angry about his remarks.
"Listen to my words and know, hey, Ryan's always going to be direct, he's going to speak directly to us. I hope they see my respect for all communities and respect for out history and wanting those lessons to be taught," Walters said.