Weekly Wonk: New laws to benefit Oklahoma youth | Good ideas get better with more input | Tulsa Race Massacre notes, numbers

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

New laws should help improve health, well-being for Oklahoma children (Capitol Update): This was a remarkably good year for legislation on behalf of children and youth, whether they are in the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system or at home and school. Below is a brief synopsis of several forward-looking bills passed this year that those who are interested in children’s issues will be glad to know about. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Tulsa Race Massacre: After the national spotlight fades: The national spotlight will shine on our state in the coming days as we gather to commemorate the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre and its aftermath. Soon, however, this attention will fade and many long-standing issues will remain for Oklahomans to address. In addition to wrestling with the question of reparations, we need to address Oklahoma’s immense racial inequalities. [OK Policy

Policy Matters: Good ideas get better with more input: If only there were a “good idea” fairy who could swoop down and grace us with brilliant insights. Instead, good ideas are birthed through a curiosity to find a better way, and they become shaped through experience and expertise. A good idea doesn’t wither during conflict or debate. Rather, it becomes stronger through the process. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

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Weekly What’s That


Medicare is a national social insurance program administered by the federal government. Medicare provides access to health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older who have paid into it (i.e. paid income tax in the US), and for some younger people with disabilities.

There are four components to the Medicare program: Part A, covering hospital care, and Part B, covering most other medical care, were part of the original Medicare program created in 1965. Medicare Part C, known as Medicare Advantage, is an option that allows beneficiaries to purchase all-in-one coverage through commercial insurance companies. Part D, added in 2004, covers prescription drugs. Most Medicare recipients pay premiums and incur out-of-pocket expenses as deductibles and coinsurance. Low-income recipients may have their premiums and cost-sharing obligations for Medicare Part A and/or B covered by Medicaid; this population is known as dual eligibles.  Many recipients purchase supplemental coverage, known as Medigap.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“If we want to make progress, that requires the kind of persistence and tedium that is not glamorous. What’s the point of telling the story of the massacre if we’re not going to address the issues and challenges that it raises?”

-Hannibal Johnson, a Tulsa scholar who has written several books on the Greenwood District and the Tulsa Race Massacre [Vox

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: President Joe Biden comes to mark Tulsa’s worst moment

…The city fathers covered up the massacre’s shame and never offered a timely acknowledgement, much less an apology or restitution.

We make no effort to excuse the crimes of 1921. We offer no alibi for the endemic racism that sparked the massacre and that continued long after the fires were extinguished.

Tulsa was not exceptional in its attitudes in 1921. Its racism was the racism of much of the nation. This doesn’t excuse or even properly explain the crimes.

But it does give them context, and it helps define why it is proper that the president join in the 100th anniversary events: Tulsa’s sins are the sins of the nation.

The nation’s original sin was white privilege, expressed in the wars of extermination against the native population and chattel slavery, refashioned after the Civil War in segregation and discrimination. Anyone who claims those are the issues of the past, that they deserve no further notice, is willfully ignoring history and seeking to continue the dangerous course of comfortable ignorance and self-delusion…

[Read full Tulsa World editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 6,000 – Approximate number of Black Tulsans held in internment camps following the Tulsa Race Massacre. The National Guard forced these prisoners, both men and women, to labor to clean up the destruction caused by white rioters. The mayor threatened to arrest for vagrancy anyone who refused to work. [Oklahoma Historical Society]
  • $200 million – Estimated damage in today’s dollars caused by white rioters during the Tulsa Race Massacre, which includes homes, businesses, churches, public buildings, personal property and other assets, such as cash and personal belongings. The Tulsa Race Massacre not only led to the loss of innocent lives, but it also destroyed the economic prospects for future generations. [American Journal of Economics and Sociology]
  • 191 – Number of businesses — including solo-practice lawyers and doctors, a library, two schools, and a hospital — in Tulsa’s Greenwood area prior to the Tulsa Race Massacre. [Harvard University]
  • 34% – The Black poverty rate citywide in Tulsa, more than twice the rate of white poverty in the city. [Human Rights Watch]

What We’re Reading

  • After The Burning: The Economic Effects of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre [Harvard University]
  • Why Black Wealth Has Stayed ‘Relatively Flat’ Since Tulsa Massacre [Yahoo Finance]
  • The Destruction of Black Wall Street: Tulsa’s 1921 Riot and the Eradication of Accumulated Wealth [The American Journal of Economic and Sociology]
  • The Tulsa Race Massacre at 100: An Imperative for International Accountability and Justice [Stanford]


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.

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