To Be Equal: More Than Just a Few Facebook Ads
Foreign Interference in American Democracy Specifically Targeted African Americans
State of Black America® 2019 Documents the State of the Black Vote
“In the days leading up to the election, the IRA [Russian Troll Farm] began to deploy voter suppression tactics on the Black-community targeted accounts … As the election became imminent, themes were tied into several varieties of voter suppression narratives: don’t vote, state home, this country is not for Black people, these candidates don’t care about Black people.” – U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Report, “The Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency”
The U.S. Intelligence community announced it was “confident” that it happened.
A Senate Intelligence Committee report confirmed it.
And now the Mueller Report has documented its scope in breathtaking detail.
Russia interfered to disrupt American democracy on a massive scale. An administration official recently falsely downplayed this unprecedented act of sabotage as “a few Facebook ads.”
This year’s State of Black America®, due for release on May 6, will show how wrong that characterization is. We’ve taken a close look at the state of the Black vote, from racially-motivated voter suppression laws, to wrong-headed U.S. Supreme Court decisions that hampered voting rights, to the race-based manipulation of African American voters by Russian trolls.
What we determined is alarming.
The report will be released at a special event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The event will feature presentations by our partners in the report, the Brennan Center for Justice and the German Marshall Fund, and a dynamic panel discussion featuring the nation’s top journalists. Watch live on the National Urban League Facebook page.
Since the release of the Mueller report, the administration has careened among wildly contradictory positions, from flatly denying the interference as a “hoax,” misrepresenting it as “a few Facebook ads,” to declaring cooperation with hostile foreign agents to be a perfectly legal and natural course of action for a political campaign.
As the State of Black America ® details, we can accept nothing less than a clear-eyed accounting of what really happened and an aggressive, comprehensive plan to combat it.
For African-Americans, the unobstructed right to vote has been an ongoing, centuries-long battle. Russian interference is just the latest chapter in the blood-soaked saga. Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, Black Americans who were not enslaved had voting rights in some jurisdictions. In Dred, the court held that the rights and privileges of citizenship afforded by the U.S. Constitution did not apply to Black people.
This remained the official status of African Americans until five years after the Civil War, when the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, ensuring the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
The Jim Crow era, from the late 19th century to the mid-20th Century, made a mockery of the 15th Amendment. Poll taxes, literacy tests, indiscriminate incarceration and violence kept most Black Americans off the voter rolls for nearly a century. White supremacist terrorists carried out nearly 5,000 documented lynchings to enforce their ideology. Dozens of Americans who were murdered for their voting rights efforts are immortalized as civil rights martyrs. The shocking images of violence helped galvanize the nation in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But the growing power of the Black vote has triggered a devastating backlash. The State of Black America® documents a resurgence of racially-motivated voter suppression over the last decade, including efforts by Russian trolls to stop African Americans from voting.
We look forward to sharing our findings on May 6 and anticipate a lively and robust dialogue as we put forward our policy recommendations to end the crisis. Watch the event on Facebook, and follow the National Urban League on social media. @NatUrbanLeague, and participate using the hashtag #StateOfBlackAmerica.
Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League