Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, was removed from the commission overseeing the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on Friday after he signed a bill banning critical race theory in the state’s schools.
“The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commissioners met Tuesday and agreed through consensus to part ways with Governor Stitt,” the commission said in a statement on Friday.
It adds that the commission “is disheartened to part ways with Governor Stitt” but “thankful for the things accomplished together.”
Elected officials and representatives of elected officials were not involved in the decision, according to the statement.
The ouster comes after commission project manager Phil Armstrong last week rebuked Stitt for signing a bill that prohibits the teaching of critical race theory.
Critical race theory “presupposes that racism is embedded within society and institutions.” The theory’s implementation in classrooms nationwide has drawn outcry from parents, some of whom have received emails from their children’s schools about “Decentering Whiteness at Home” or have elementary-school aged children who have been read “a book about whiteness” that suggests “color matters” and encourages them to dissect “the painful truth” about their “own family,” regarding potential racist behavior.
Stitt signed the legislation on Friday, saying, “Now more than ever, we need policies that bring us together, not rip us apart.”
Armstrong claimed the law is “diametrically opposite to the mission of the Centennial Commission and reflects your desire to end your affiliation,” according to The Associated Press.
A spokeswoman for the governor told the AP he became aware of his removal when the announcement was made on Friday. She added that Stitt’s role was “purely ceremonial and he had not been invited to attend a meeting until this week.”
However, Armstrong said Stitt failed to attend a meeting on Monday to discuss the new critical-race-theory law, leaving the group “gravely disappointed,” according to a letter the commission sent to the governor on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, State Representative Monroe Nichols, a Democrat, resigned from the commission Tuesday, saying the governor’s signing of the bill “cast an ugly shadow on the phenomenal work done over the last five years.”
The commission organizes events in observance of the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, in which a white mob torched 30 blocks of black-owned businesses, homes and churches on May 31 and June 1 of 1921. The massacre, which occurred in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, known as “Black Wall Street,” left nearly 300 dead and roughly 800 wounded.