The Tulsa Massacre, American Violence, and Right-Wing Denial

Elwood Watson, Ph.D.
Momentum
Published in
4 min readJul 12, 2023

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Alvin C. Keupnik Co./Library of Congress via AP

Ryan Walters, a far right-wing education official and pro-Trump Republican who currently serves as Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, recently caused a political firestorm and is facing calls for impeachment after he insisted that the Tulsa Race Massacre “can be taught in public schools without amounting to “critical race theory” — so long as it’s taught without discussing race.”

As a senior level state education administrator, Walters made the comments during a forum at the Norman Public Library on July 6th after he was asked how accurately teaching about the infamous white supremacist massacre, which killed as many as 300 Black people, wouldn’t violate a state ban on teaching critical race theory. His response was:

“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,” he told the audience. “That doesn’t mean you don’t judge the actions of individuals. 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.”

“The Frontier,” an Oklahoma-based investigative journalism organization, reported Walter’s comments. Not surprisingly, such a foolish response did not go over well.

Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch

Damario Solomon-Simmons, executive director at Justice for Greenwood, harshly criticized Walters’ comments stating that “it is beyond belief” for a top elected education official to say that. He’s misinformed, and this is a disgusting comment, and it’s so inaccurate and false,” “The massacre was all about the skin color of the Black people who were destroyed. The [white mob] call Greenwood N-word town. They said they wanted to run the Blacks out of Tulsa.” Solomon-Simmons is spot on in his response.

For those of you who do not know (although you should), the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 was a horrific act of racial terrorism that destroyed the…

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Elwood Watson, Ph.D.
Momentum

Historian, Syndicated Columnist, Public Speaker, Social-Cultural Critic. Professor of Black Studies and Gender Studies, at East Tennessee State University.