TULSA, Okla. — For decades, Oklahoma students weren’t required to learn about the Tulsa race massacre in school, in what the city’s school superintendent called a “conspiracy of silence.”
Now some residents and educators worry that a new state law could derail progress in teaching about the tragedy, in which white mobs burned much of the Black community of Greenwood to the ground a century ago, leaving as many as 300 people dead.
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt on May 7, restricts public-school teachers and employees from using lessons that make an individual “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
Days later, Gov. Stitt was ousted from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which said his action was contrary to the group’s mission. The commission called his approval of the legislation “a sad day and a stain on Oklahoma.”
Similar legislation designed to counter moves by school districts to focus lessons on race or systemic racism has been passed in Idaho and Tennessee and is being considered in at least a dozen other states. Some of the Republican-backed legislation specifically bans a decades-old teaching method called “critical race theory,” which addresses the way racism is embedded in laws and society.
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