In The Know: ‘Mask’ becomes a four-letter word? | Conversations on race, policing | Impacts from historic court ruling

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

Why ‘mask’ has become a four-letter word: In a time of uncertainty and change, Americans are squared off over a simple piece of medical equipment. Somehow, it has become an icon of righteous outrage for both those who wear them and those who don’t. [Tulsa World]

Black officers encourage conversations about race, cultural differences: Over the past month, protests have sprung up in all 50 states in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. And the Black Lives Matter movement has brought scrutiny to the law enforcement profession, which many see as a tool for perpetuating systematic racism. While many activists seem frustrated their demands for change aren’t being met quickly enough, calls for police reform haven’t been ignored. [The Oklahoman]

Norman Pastor Clarence Hill offers guide on how to improve racial relations: In the weeks following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, a Norman pastor sat in his office in Norman and sketched out what he believes can be a path for all to analyze, identify, change and grow when it comes to racial relationships. [The Oklahoman]

For Oklahoma tribe, vindication at long last: The court’s 5-to-4 declaration that much of Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma had long been a reservation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was seen as a watershed victory for Native Americans’ long campaign to uphold sovereignty, tribal boundaries and treaty obligations. [New York Times]

  • The Supreme Court’s landmark new Native American rights decision, explained [Vox]
  • The McGirt case is a historic win for tribes [The Atlantic]
  • Questions continue on SCOTUS decision [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Judgment overturned for second convicted killer in wake of Creek reservation case [The Oklahoman]
  • Supreme Court vacates 4 more sentences after Oklahoma ruling [Tulsa Public Radio]
  • Tribes, Oklahoma committed to working together on matters of jurisdiction and public safety [KOSU]
  • McGirt decision to have little impact on non-tribal residents, says TU law professor [Tulsa World]
  • Supreme court ruling raises questions about energy rules in Oklahoma [OK Energy Today]
  • Capitol Insider: McGirt decision compels state-tribal cooperation (audio): [KGOU]
  • Editorial: Court made right decision for tribes [Editorial / Tahlequah Daily Press]

Advocates seek Indigenous representation at Oklahoma monument: A sit-in Saturday at a massive monument here commemorating an 1889 land run drew hundreds of Indigenous activists and supporters, along with a few dozen armed counter-protesters, some carrying long rifles and wearing bulletproof vests. [Indian Country Today] American Indian group protests Oklahoma land rush memorial [AP News] Protesters at Oklahoma City’s Land Run Monument say memorial disregards Native American perspective. [The Oklahoman]

COVID-19: Oklahoma reports first pediatric death with 456 new infections; 20,235 cases confirmed: As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the state’s first pediatric death related to the virus on Sunday. The newly reported death brings the state’s total to 422. [Tulsa World

Health News

Oklahoma renegotiates hospital surge contracts as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations spike: Oklahoma public health officials are finalizing new contracts for hospital surge plans as the number of positive cases and hospitalizations of coronavirus patients have spiked in recent weeks. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tyson poultry plant didn’t cause McCurtain County outbreak, health department says: The outbreak of COVID-19 that has driven cases in McCurtain County from 200 to 606 in three weeks includes a Tyson Foods poultry plant but didn’t originate at the facility, according to the Oklahoma State Health Department. [The Oklahoman]

Facing a future of ‘deaths of despair’: An “epidemic within a pandemic” will likely claim lives in Oklahoma and across the nation as people laid off from jobs, cut off from family and friends and worried about the future may fall victim to “deaths of despair,” a new study suggests. [The Journal Record]

Op-Ed: SQ 802 is now in the Oklahoma Constitution; it will cost less than you think and save lives: Medicaid expansion in one state won’t control medical inflation. It’s a problem for Congress, which, in the thrall of Big Pharma, isn’t likely to act effectively. But it is reasonable to say that Medicaid expansion will help control consumer medical costs to insured patients. Without it, those costs would surely rise faster. [Wayne Greene Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Test! Trace! Isolate! Delays make that impossible: This record-popping resurgence in new COVID-19 cases was predictable, considering the state’s haste to reopen with little regard to guidelines published by the White House. [Editorial / Muskogee Phoenix]

Editorial: Remember what it’s about: It might not seem like much that only about 10 percent of the state’s ICU beds are taken by COVID-19 patients. There are many other reasons a person might need to be in the ICU. But with the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus, it makes it more imperative that our state’s hospitals are not overrun with coronavirus patients. [Editorial / Stillwater News Press]

State Government News

Stitt’s pick to run state land office led bankrupt energy company: The proposed new secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office ran an energy company which filed for bankruptcy last year and had been underpaying the commission royalties for oil and gas production. [Oklahoma Watch] Stitt is recommending that Elliot Chambers, CEO of White Star Petroleum Holdings LLC, be appointed as the new secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office, an agency that manages public lands and a trust funds for the benefit of education. [The Oklahoman] Questions are raised about Governor’s pick of new Land Office leader [OK Energy Today]

Oklahoma’s unemployment insurance compensation program in good shape, so far: The fund that supports Oklahoma’s unemployment insurance compensation program remains in good financial shape — for now. On July 3, it held $1.3 billion available for payouts to Oklahomans who are both traditional workers and self-employed/gig economy workers who aren’t on the job because of the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

State Fair, charter school, ice cream company among Oklahoma loan recipients: From Dippin’ Dots and prestigious law firms to the State Fair of Oklahoma, thousands of Oklahoma businesses and nonprofit organizations sought forgivable federal loans this spring as the pandemic stifled a wide range of economic activity and charitable giving. [The Oklahoman] Note: OK Policy applied for and received a PPP loan. 

Editorial: State’s ties with for-profit records repository looks bad: Offering convenience at a profit is not unusual, but something smells about the state’s arrangement with a private company that compiles court documents and hides them behind a paywall. [Editorial / Muskogee Phoenix]

Federal Government News

CARES act is a lot of money ‘and our people don’t want to hear any excuses’:  As the coronavirus ripped through the Navajo Nation, it spotlighted longstanding inequities on the reservation where thousands of tribal members travel long distances for medical care, internet service is spotty at best and many homes lack electricity and even running water. [AP News via Indian Country Today]

Criminal Justice News

Parole board becomes focus of state’s criminal justice divide: Two members of the state Pardon and Parole Board have become the focal point for competing visions of criminal justice in Oklahoma, where incarceration rates have long been some of the highest in the nation following decades of high mandatory minimum sentences that filled prions with nonviolent offenders. [The Frontier]

Point of View: A plea for mercy for Julius Jones: The death penalty is the ultimate punishment that a society can impose. The U.S. Supreme Court says it is to be reserved for the worst of the worst. Julius Jones is not the worst of the worst. His life should be spared. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman] Op-Ed: Oklahoma Attorney General wants Julius Jones to die quietly. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Opinion: We have a responsibility to challenge police when they kill: When police and prosecutors overstep their authority, all citizens have a responsibility to speak up. The black community needs white allies who will challenge police departments, their unions and prosecutors to reform, re-educate themselves and respond to our calls for equal protection under the law. [Opinion / OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

GKFF provides nearly $3 million grant to north Tulsa-based holistic defense firm: Still She Rises Tulsa, a holistic defense agency working with mothers primarily in the city’s north side, has already represented more than 1,450 clients since its establishment in 2017. But though Oklahoma has in recent years made strides toward shrinking its incarcerated population, the state remains a leader in the number of women and Black people sent to prison. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Supreme Court ruling on Oklahoma tribal land raises questions for oil industry: A U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing about half of Oklahoma as Native American reservation land has implications for oil and gas development in the state, raising complex regulatory and tax questions that could take years to settle, according to Oklahoma attorneys. [Reuters]

As restaurant workers’ exposure to virus grows, owners’ reactions show strain of pandemic: After an Tulsa restaurant employee was found to have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, the owner temporarily closed her restaurant, had it professionally sanitized, and maintained strict safety procedures with the staff. These experiences underscore the stress and fears felt by virtually all restaurant workers during the pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Epic Charter Schools founders now claim millions in question by State Auditor are “earned” by their for-profit management company: Attorneys are still battling in court in the state’s legal effort to compel Epic Charter Schools’ for-profit operator to comply with an investigative audit, newly filed public records reveal. Epic’s founders now claim the tens of millions in question by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector are “earned” by the school management company they own to provide goods and services. [Tulsa World]

As schools restart, educators anxious, concerned about uncertainty: For months, thousands of teachers have protected their health primarily by teaching students remotely. But now, the state’s public school system is facing a sudden reckoning as more districts announce plans to resume in-person schooling even as COVID-19 case numbers balloon. [CNHI] ‘A tough choice’: Oklahoma teachers conflicted on return to classrooms. [The Oklahoman

  • ‘A tragic milestone’: Hofmeister urges mask-wearing for the sake of school in light of state’s first child COVID-19 death [Tulsa World]
  • Hofmeister: Mask mandate in schools ‘certainly a possibility.’ [The Oklahoman]
  • “School is vital”: Superintendent urges Oklahomans to wear masks in public [KOSU]
  • Tulsa County could use CARES Act funds to help schools acquire PPE [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • The coming mask war in American schools [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Trump’s campaign to open schools provokes mounting backlash even from GOP [Politico]

New school could bridge gap between south OKC neighborhoods: Construction is about to start on Oklahoma City’s first dual language immersion school, creating the first connection between a new urbanist community being built along the Oklahoma River and older, working class neighborhoods nearby. [The Oklahoman]

Point of View: Ideas for getting Oklahoma teachers to stay: With half of teachers quitting before their fifth year, the growing Oklahoma teacher shortage and the astronomical number of emergency certified teachers, the question arises: How do we get teachers to stay? [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

OSSAA hopes fall sports can go on as planned: As of right now, high school fall sports in Oklahoma will go on as planned. However, nothing is set in stone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association plans to play all fall sports, including football, in the coming months. But those activities could be moved to the spring if needed. [Ada News via CNHI]

‘The fear is real’: OU students, employees urge for more online options: Scores of students, faculty and staff have urged the University of Oklahoma to allow more freedom to choose online classes. A campus petition demands no instructors or students be required to attend in-person courses this fall. All professors should have the choice to teach entirely online, the petition states. [The Oklahoman]

TU president issues statement on ‘highly counterproductive’ ICE policy: University of Tulsa Interim President Janet Levit issued a statement Friday in response to a recent announcement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would require international students at universities offering online-only courses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to leave the country. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Point of View: Liberal arts, an ancient idea crucial to our future success: In my 20th year as president of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, I hear more and more about the importance of the traditional liberal arts in the contemporary world. Though the term dates to Classical antiquity, the idea of useful and necessary studies “worthy of a free people” remains a keystone for anyone wishing to effectively participate in the life of a democratic republic. [John Feaver Op-Ed / The Oklahoman] Note: John Feaver is an OK Policy board member.

Editorial: Union schools needs to shed its connection to an Indigeous racial slur: The Union school district has announced a re-evaluation of its mascot, a long-overdue reflection of change. We encourage the district to shed its connection to the Indigenous racial slur and find a unifying image to represent its diverse student body. [Editorial / Tulsa World] Time and time again, we have heard from representatives of tribal nations about their disapproval of mascots referencing Native Americans. Their words have been ignored by some for far too long. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

General News

Group files petitions to recall Norman mayor, council members: Unite Norman, the group that’s trying remove Norman Mayor Breea Clark and four city council members filed recall petitions with the city clerk’s office on Friday. [The Oklahoman]

  • Former Norman City Councilwoman believes she was intended target of attack [The Oklahoman]
  • Catch up on 2020’s important Norman news cycle [NonDoc]

No more delays: What to know about the July 15 tax deadline: It’s time to do your taxes — no more delays. As the coronavirus pandemic took hold this spring, the federal government postponed the traditional April 15 filing deadline until July 15. [AP News]

Aspiring attorneys ask state to waive bar exam for health concerns: More than 300 law school graduates and test proctors will crowd into the Cox Convention Center later this month for the Oklahoma bar exam. [NewsOn6]

Op-Ed: Anger and fear are gripping Americans, but flickers of optimism remain: Lately, it seems everyone is virtually screaming to get off their lawns, chasing people away and filling their yards with crazy, polarizing signs. This anger and fear seeping into our homes has now crept into the minds — and often behavior — of Americans. [Ginnie Graham Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Op-Ed: Individuality vs. the common good: America has become a society that prides itself on individuality over the common good. It’s a very good thing the Greatest Generation didn’t think that way about World War II. Common sacrifice was a national theme. And … it worked. [Op-Ed / Enid News & Eagle]

Editorial: Juneteenth more worthy of celebrating than Columbus Day: Sens. James Lankford and Ron Johnson proposed — and Johnson subsequently withdrew — a plan to make Juneteenth a federal holiday instead of Columbus Day. It was a brave and appropriate idea, and we’re sorry that it was politicized and dropped. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa city sales, use tax numbers end FY 2020 on a down note; July numbers show big improvement [Tulsa World]
  • Test excavations in Tulsa Race Massacre mass graves search resume Monday [Tulsa World]
  • OU researchers join test excavation searching for Tulsa Race Massacre remains [CNHI]
  • Muskogee experiences unexpected sales tax spike [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • City of Lawton has COVID-19 measures in place for employees [Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“Finding shared values is ultimately what you’re looking for. We have a society that keeps thinking if we elect certain people or take down certain things that things are going to change. I believe in Oklahoma we can change our culture from a grassroots level.”

-The Rev. Clarence Hill, pastor of Antioch Community Church in Norman [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Approximate percentage of Americans who say they are bothered “a lot” by the feeling that some corporations (62%) and wealthy people (62%) do not pay their fair share in taxes.

[Source: Pew Research Center]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Racial Disparities and the Income Tax System: The Internal Revenue Service does not ask for a tax filer’s race or ethnicity on tax forms, but that does not mean the tax system affects people of different races in the same way. Overall, federal income taxes are progressive: people with higher incomes pay a larger share of their income in taxes than those with lower incomes, and this can help close racial income gaps. But some tax policies can also exacerbate income and wealth inequalities stemming from long-standing discrimination in areas such as housing, education, and employment. [Tax Policy Center]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.