OKC Black Lives Matter Rally Draws Large Crowd

Participants in the Black Lives Matter event in Oklahoma June 10, 2016

The Black Lives Matter rally in Oklahoma early Sunday evening was a lively and peaceful event that should remind everyone that it was desperately important because unfortunately racism still remains systemic here and elsewhere around the country.

The crowd was estimated at more than 2,000 people by the Oklahoma City Police Department, according to one media report, but I thought there were probably more people than that when you count those, like myself, who marched across the bridge on Walnut Avenue into Bricktown, along with those who were waiting near the pavilion across the street from the ballpark. Initially, one media report noted the police said only 500 people showed up. That’s sometimes how authority marginalizes protest by underestimating crowds they don’t necessarily like, but then the police changed the estimate for whatever reason. Was it an honest mistake or did helicopter video force the issue?

Black Lives Matter protests have been held across the country last week after Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, La. and Philando Castile was killed by police in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Both were black men.These shootings were followed by the sniper attack on police in Dallas. Five police officers lost their lives there in what was supposed to be a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, but one rogue and mentally ill person changed that equation. It was another bloody week in America.

But the deaths of Sterling and Castile and the shooting of police officers in Dallas were not the beginning the problem. The beginning of the problem is, as it has always been, racism. It doesn’t help that our gun laws are terribly lax and unregulated because of the country’s weapons industry and the National Rifle Association, but racism is the festering sore that has yet to heal.

As a white man and college professor, I can understand my privilege in a conscious and intellectual sense, and I will never feel the fear or anxiety deep in the crevices of my bones like an African American, who, say, gets pulled over in a car by the police. What I do know above all else, though, is that white people need to stand up and speak out against racism and, very specifically, against the rampant police brutality faced by African Americans and other minority people on a daily basis in this country.

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Oklahoma Revenue Problem Becomes A Structural Issue

Don’t expect taxes on fossil fuel production to improve Oklahoma’s financial situation much anytime soon, according to some predictions.

Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller laid out grim news this week about declining tax collections again for the month of June, but he did note the gross production taxes on fossil fuels “. . . have risen slightly for two months in a row . . .” This led at least one local media outlet to herald that news as an “industry turnaround.”

But not so fast. Some analysts are predicting oil could go under $40 a barrel after the summer driving season, and peak oil demand—the concept the world has reached the summit of its fossil fuel use—means Oklahoma faces a major financial structural crisis that could conceivably linger for years. I remain unsure why more people aren’t discussing this.

Miller’s numbers continue to stagger. June collections were down 7.4 percent or $74 million compared to last year. Miller noted that this is the 14th consecutive month that tax revenues declined from the previous year. Oklahoma, Miller pointed out, is officially in a recession. Overall, 2016 receipts declined by 7.2 percent or $860 million, according to Miller. This is in a state with an approximate $7 billion annual budget.

The declining revenues have led to major cuts to state agencies. Funding for higher education, for example, was cut nearly 16 percent. Funding for K-12 education took a smaller hit, but this came after years of cuts. State agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, have taken drastic measures to survive the budget crisis, including a freeze on child care subsidies, which has now been lifted. In short, the state remains in a financial free fall.

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Was KD Decision A Political Statement?

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to play ball for the Golden State Warriors generated a maximum amount of social media chatter over the holiday. It was way too much. Why on a major holiday? Couldn’t all this sports hoopla wait one day?

Some here see Durant as some type of traitor and coward for some reason. I don’t even know what those terms mean in this context. Some argued he’s trading “legacy” for a chance at a championship “ring.” Okay, maybe. It’s obvious in some sense, but what does legacy really mean to a young man, especially when it comes to Oklahoma City? Maybe he doesn’t want his legacy to be Oklahoma City. Some wondered why Oklahomans don’t pay as much attention to the funding problems facing education here as they do to a star athlete. (I like this, of course, as a college professor.) Some just brushed it off as this is just what happens in big-league sports, and, well, Okies should just get used to it now that we’re in the big leagues. That’s true enough at the most basic level, but, again, so completely obvious.

Then there’s the storyline popping up that the on-court performance of Russell Westbrook somehow made KD leave. I’m not buying that.

Obviously, I don’t think Durant is a traitor or coward or whatever pejorative, and there’s nothing especially wrong with talking about sports and venting. Maybe it eases the pain of living in this extremely flawed place. The heat index was over 100 yesterday and will be today as well. The earthquakes keep coming because of fracking. I can go on. As long as no one goes off the rails here completely with the Durant decision, and a few people have and will, what’s the issue? It will pass, folks.

But some of us, including myself, couldn’t help but note that Durant’s decision may well have included some political gestures or semi-gestures (perhaps, at least a hint) that the corporate media failed to directly address. Maybe, just maybe, Durant didn’t want to be the face and the most-recognized person from a place that often makes the news for the antics of its right-wing politicians connected at least in the past to the team's principal owner.

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