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GREENWOOD Dist. — A recently unearthed video shows Ryan Walters allegedly presenting false information to his AP US History class. On film, the former appointed Oklahoma Secretary of Education incorrectly cites Black History figures and studies multiple times. This occurred prior to his election to Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Ryan Walters’ Malcolm X Mishap

While contrasting iconic Civil Rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, Walters inaccurately states that Malcolm X is the founder of the Black Panther Party.

“Malcolm X believed that you needed to force change now. That waiting is only making it worse. That you’ve got to be — if they’re going to be violent to you, you be violent to them. Um, that if they’re going to be scared to do things, to change things for African Americans because they are scared of…kind of like…um, that racists, will like, push back, and get mad. Well, you need to be madder. And so he started the Black Panthers, which started pushing a violent response to government oppression.”

– Former AP US History Teacher Ryan Walters

The Black Panther Party was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Their organization’s core principles included advocating for self-defense, monitoring and challenging police misconduct through armed patrols, providing community services such as free breakfast programs for children and health clinics, and promoting empowerment and self-determination among Black Americans.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panther Party called for an end to racial discrimination and systemic inequality.

His Du Bois Debacle

During the class, which occurred on Zoom, Walters also mispronounced the name of W.E.B. DuBois, who he contrasted with Booker T. Washington. In the video, Walters inaccurately enunciated W.E.B.’s last name, seemingly lazy, “Dubo.”

“Remember Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubo.”

The great Black icon’s last name is correctly enunciated “doo bawaa” or, more commonly, “doo b-ois,” with an emphasis on the “ois.”

Tulsa School Board, Ryan Walters
Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters leads a meeting at the Oklahoma State Board of Education during a vote on the accreditation status for Tulsa Publics Schools on on Thursday, August 24, 2023. (Photo by Chris Creese / The Black Wall Street Times)

Ryan Walters Failed Attempt to Explain “The Doll Test”

Walter also showed signs of being uninformed in the full understanding of “The Doll Test,” inaccurately citing Black psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark.

“What the psychologists said was because we segregated them for so long and we put all the Black students in the bad school, and the White students in the good school, these young Black kids are goin’, well, I guess Whites better,” Walter explains to his students.

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Walter’s pedagogy on the Clarks’ theory about school racial segregation leading to psychological harm in Black children in America is correct. However, he does not explain how white media has stigmatized Black people as less than human for centuries. Moreover, he omitted that Blacks’ subjugation as human property during institutional enslavement. These narratives, among others, have contributed to some individuals within the Black American community developing a sense of racial inferiority complex.

He also refers to Black schools as simply “bad” and white schools as “good,” as opposed to using the phrases underresourced, inequality, or unequal.

Gaps and Biases in Walter’s Instruction Analyzed

Walters never explained that during segregation, schools attended by Black students were severely underresourced and underfunded. Importantly, a Black child’s choosing a white doll over a black doll had many more variables to consider.

Walters left out much context during his review. Whether students received a more thorough review during the year is questionable since Walter, like many Republican officials, is seemingly opposed to Oklahoma offering AP African American Studies to public school students.

Take Aways

When teaching Black history, it is essential to be cautious and sensitive to various aspects to ensure a respectful and accurate educational experience. Teachers, regardless of race, should remember that teaching Black history is an ongoing process of learning, reflection, and growth. It’s essential to approach it with humility and a commitment to promoting understanding, empathy, and, yes, social justice.

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...

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