Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, issued an apology on Friday for her earlier comments to The Frontier on the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Conley said in a press release:
“Recently, comments I made about the Tulsa Race Massacre were published in a story regarding the impact of House Bill 1775 on education curriculum in Oklahoma. I want to take the opportunity today to clarify those comments. The Tulsa Race Massacre is a well-established and tragic part of Oklahoma history. My comments were in no way meant to downplay the horror of this event nor to say that it did not have anything to do with race. It is a well-established historical fact that the Tulsa Race Massacre was motivated by race. I was attempting to convey that I can never know another individual’s true intent because I cannot think their thoughts, nor was I alive during the time this event happened. I would like to apologize for any hurt caused by my statements; that was never my intent. We must all work together as a state to examine the root causes of these traumatic events in our history and find solutions that help us move forward. I believe that the history of our state and nation should be taught fully, the good and the bad, so we can confront the difficult challenges of our past, and work together toward a unified future.”
Conley is one of the authors of HB 1775, legislation that has sometimes been called a ban on “critical race theory” in Oklahoma public schools. The 2021 law banned teaching certain concepts about race and gender.
The Frontier reported Thursday that some teachers say the law has affected how they teach certain topics including the Tulsa Race Massacre. The teachers said they fear punishments including losing their teaching certification or an accreditation downgrade for their school districts.
Conley told The Frontier in an interview for the story that she thinks the Tulsa Race Massacre was motivated by race but hesitated to say the perpetrators were racist.
“It’s just a terrible tragedy in our state, and whether or not it was actually racism that caused the thoughts of the people that started it — we can try to speculate but to know for sure, I don’t think that we can,” Conley said.
In July, Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters also faced backlash for his remarks about what students should learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre during a Cleveland County Republican Party meeting in Norman where he said “let’s not tie it to the skin color.” Walters also later clarified his remarks and said the 1921 massacre was “racist.”