A white teacher at Oklahoma’s Norman North High School stirred up controversy after telling her class full of students that “to be White is to be racist” during a philosophy lecture on race and culture.
“Am I racist? And I say, yeah. I don’t want to be. It’s not like I choose to be racist,” the teacher is heard saying in audio obtained by KFOR. “But do I do things because of the way I was raised?” The student who recorded the statement says the remarks were made during a lecture on healing the racial divide. The student began recording after finding some of the discussion offensive.
“Half of my family is Hispanic, so I just felt like, you know, him calling me racist just because I’m White…I mean, where’s your proof in that? You start telling someone something over and over again that’s an opinion, and they start taking it as fact,” she told KFOR.
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Joseph Siano, superintendent of Norman Public Schools, agrees that the teacher should have handled the discussion differently. “While discussing a variety of philosophical perspectives on culture, race and ethics, a teacher was attempting to convey to students in an elective philosophy course a perspective that had been shared at a university lecture he had attended,” Siano said in a statement. “We regret that the discussion was poorly handled. When the district was notified of this concern it was immediately addressed. We are committed to ensuring inclusiveness in our schools.”
Some students believe the teacher’s words were taken out of context and demonstrated Tuesday to support ongoing discussions about race and inclusivity.
“What has been reported in the news doesn’t accurately portray what happened in our philosophy class, nor does it reflect what we believe in at our school,” the group of supportive students told the Huffington Post. “The information was taken out of context and we believe it is important to have serious and thoughtful discussions about institutional racism in order to change history and promote inclusivity.”
Another student added, “We are working to build bridges and having a healthy discussion about various philosophies is critical to examining ways to bring awareness to institutionalized racism. We appreciate the Norman Public School District’s support and the structures they have in place to address these topics.”