Since the abolition of slavery, African Americans have painstakingly found the means to break long-rusted chains, secure essential rights long-denied under a system dedicated to maintaining white privilege and overcome daunting hurdles in the centuries-old battle for true equality as promised to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution.
But as the countdown continues until the 2020 general election when the next president of the U.S. will be determined, many Blacks remain thwarted from exercising the right to vote — unwilling passengers in America’s “caboose” — its seats reserved for those of black or brown skin who disproportionately represent a marginalized, second-class citizenry.
At least that’s the conclusion offered by leaders of the National Urban League (NUL) at the National Press Club on May 6 in Northwest as they pointed to highlights found within the organization’s highly-anticipated yearly review of the condition of Black Americans in the 2019 State of Black America.
“The right of African Americans to vote — our right to participate in the civic processes of this nation — quite simply is under attack,” said Marc H. Morial, president/CEO, NUL.
“There’s been a terrible trio of voter suppression including the opening of the floodgates by the Supreme Court with several poor decisions that subsequently made it easier for states to pass legislation that have made voting more difficult,” he said.
“According to the Brennan Center, our partners in this report, state lawmakers began introducing voter suppression measures in 2010, from strict photo ID requirements to slashing early voting and throwing up roadblocks to registration.”
Morial emphasized that one of the impacts of Russian interference in the 2016 elections that continues to be ignored remains a significant reduction in Blacks who voted because of being fooled by Russian propaganda.
“Racism was a powerful tool used by Russian and other hostile foreign hackers and troll farms to manipulate the 2016 presidential and 2018 midterm elections,” he added. “A Russian-linked social media campaign, ‘Blacktivist,’ used Facebook and Twitter to ramp up racial tensions during the U.S. presidential election, using the integrity of the Black Lives Matter hashtag to carry out an insidious campaign of voter suppression.”
“And their efforts apparently worked. Posing as activists, they instructed African Americans not to vote — suppressing, discouraging and dissuading Blacks to stay home on Election Day because politicians had allegedly sold them out.”
“Meanwhile, an estimated 40 states passed tougher voting laws, also employing greater restrictions on groups like the Women’s League of Voters and the National Urban League, both known for leading successful voter registration drives in year’s past.”
“Some of our leaders want to close the books on the Mueller Report. But the light must be cast on how Russia contributed to the suppression of the African-American vote.”
Morial says we should not celebrate the low unemployment in the U.S. without also paying attention to the disparity between Black and white households.
“The arc of African-American unemployment has been declining since 2010, reaching its lowest percentage under President Obama, and continuing to decline under the current president,” he said. “Of course that’s good news.”
“But Black homeownership is at its lowest rate in 40 years — something that few leaders want to talk about. Why? Because of a recession that ushered in predatory lending policies aimed at Blacks, many of whom lost their jobs and then their homes. At the same time, we’ve seen even greater restrictions placed on loan eligibility policies.”
“What’s more, the significant difference in income inequality between Blacks and whites and an unemployment rate for Blacks that’s twice that of whites point to the fact that African Americans remain in the caboose on the train — disparities exist across the board in healthcare, income levels, housing ownership and education.”
“The report shows that we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Morial then weighed in on changes in the U.S. in this new age of Trump.
“Civil rights are under attack, voting rights are under attack and with Donald Trump and the rhetoric he shares and encourages, we’ve seen a resurgence in white nationalism that, if it remains unchecked, could very well erode the fabric of our American democracy,” Morial said.
“The question remains whether we are going to stand idly by or if we’re willing to do what’s necessary to put an end to the recent, various means of inciting greater racial and religious division in America,” he said.