A philosophy teacher at Norman North High school in Oklahoma has sparked an uproar after a student released an excerpt of one of his lectures, in which he bluntly claimed that all white people are inherently racist.
The lesson apparently sought to explore ways to heal the racial divide, while addressing the mistreatment of Native Americans.
But one white student, who wished to remain anonymous, was so taken aback by her teacher’s theory that she started recording the lecture on her cellphone. In it, the teacher can be heard saying “to be white is to be racist, period.”
“Am I racist? And I say yea. I don’t want to be. It’s not like I choose to be racist,” the teacher continued “But do I do things because of the way I was raised.”
The student told Channel 4 Oklahoma she was instantly offended, and felt the teacher was encouraging people to berate others for being white.
“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,” she said.
The student’s father similarly questioned whether it was acceptable for a teacher to demonize an entire race in class.
The Norman Public Schools superintendent Joe Siano has since issued a public statement about the controversy. He said he regretted that the discussion was poorly handled, but affirmed that the teacher was simply sharing a widespread and accepted view in academia:
“Racism is an important topic that we discuss in our schools,” he said on Tuesday “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.”
The incident has drawn mixed reactions, with some members of the community calling for the teacher’s resignation.
“You start telling someone something over and over again that’s an opinion and they start taking it as fact,” said the student who recorded the lecture “So I wanted him to apologize and make it obvious and apparent to everyone that was his opinion.”
A University of Oklahoma liberal studies, professor Paul Ketchum pointed out to the Norman Transcript that a better choice of words could have made for a “teachable moment”. But going for the “big term” instead only antagonized the student body.
“My deepest sympathies to the teacher because he is going to get hammered,.” he added.