A high school lecture has sparked discussions on racism and inclusiveness after a teacher reportedly told students “to be white is to be racist, period.”
The controversial remarks were recently delivered to students at Oklahoma’s Norman North High School, reported local station KFOR, which obtained an audio recording of the lecture.
“Am I racist? And I say, yeah. I don’t want to be. It’s not like I choose to be racist, but do I do things because of the way I was raised?” the unidentified teacher is heard saying in the recording.
A student who recorded the message and didn’t want to be identified said the remarks were made during a lecture on how to “heal the racial divide.” She said she started to record her teacher after taking personal offense to the lesson.
“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?” the student told KFOR. “You start telling someone something over and over again that’s an opinion, and they start taking it as fact.”
Norman Public Schools Superintendent Joseph Siano has since responded to the discussion, calling it “poorly handled.”
“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,” his statement read. “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.”
Though the remarks clearly sparked some backlash, at least one student has since said that the teacher’s words were taken out of context. A group of Norman North High School students staged a demonstration Tuesday morning to support ongoing discussions about inclusivity, according to a statement released by the school district.
“We believe it is important to have serious and thoughtful discussions about institutional racism in order to change history and promote 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 student, who attended the lecture and demonstration but didn’t want to be identified, said in a statement to 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, who also participated in the demonstration and did not want to be identified, shared that they have been working to develop a civil liberties association for student groups.
“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,” the student said. “We appreciate the Norman Public School District’s support and the structures they have in place to address these topics.”