A high school teacher in Oklahoma is being accused of racism after a girl in his class recorded the man saying “to be white is to be racist, period.”

The offended student comes from Norman North High School, where she was watching a YouTube clip as part of a discussion on social privilege. The video shown in class was in regards to imperialism, with white-out being used on a globe to illustrate European influence and how it spread across the world. The teacher followed up the end of the video with the following statement.

“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 teacher is recorded as saying. “To be white is to be racist, period.”

The girl who recorded the lesson and her father, both deeply offended, were later anonymously interviewed by NBC affiliate KFOR.

“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 girl said. “I felt like he was encouraging people to kind of pick on people for being white. You start telling someone something over and over again that’s an opinion, and they start taking it as fact.”

“Why is it okay to demonize one race to children that you are supposed to be teaching a curriculum to,” the father added.

The school district’s superintendent, Joe Siano, seemed to echo this opinion, saying in a statement to The Washington Post that the situation could have been handled better:

“Racism is an important topic that we discuss in our schools. 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. 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.”

The teacher under fire did have some people in his corner, however. Some students held a walk-out this past Tuesday at the school to show their support for the teacher. The school district released the following statement from the student organizers:

“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,” said a student organizer left anonymous by the school district.

“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.”


Next, read up on the Oregon high school teacher under fire for giving his students a white privilege survey. Then, hear the story of the New York University that drew criticism for offering a “Stop White People” course.

Michael Gardiner
Based in NYC. Tips and Hints: [email protected]
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