The National Urban League released its annual State of Black America this week.
The report, now in its 43rd edition, has become one of the most highly anticipated sources for information around racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice, and civic participation. Each edition contains thoughtful commentary and insightful analysis from leading figures and thought leaders in politics, the corporate and tech sectors, the nonprofit arena, academia, and popular culture.
Entitled “Getting 2 Equal: United not Divided”, the 2019 edition focuses on the power of the Black vote and its heightened vulnerability to suppression.
“Attacks on voting rights and on democracy have escalated to a level not seen since the 1960s,” said Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, at an event for the report’s release.
He highlighted Russia’s use of race as a weapon to divide Americans and dissuade African Americans from voting, a dynamic he said has been overlooked in the public discussion of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
“We need to understand how pervasive, pernicious and widespread it was,” said Morial. “This is all occurring at a time in American history when the voting power of people of color is reaching an all-time high.”
The Pew Research Center estimates people of color will comprise one-third of eligible voters in 2020, an increase of 25 percent since 2000.
“The Pew Research Center is and has always been an outstanding and credible research center,” said Dr. Valerie Thompson, President of the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City.
“We will continue to implement the National league’s recommendations and follow suit here in Oklahoma City.”
In the State of Black America report, the National Urban League found malicious foreign actors’ use of social media to spread disinformation “aligns with racially-motivated efforts taking place in state legislatures across the nation” and recent Supreme Court decisions.
The report notes that Russian intelligence operatives, working through the Internet Research Agency, posted hundreds of videos and social media posts focused on fears of voter fraud, Black Lives Matter and police brutality.
On the domestic front, Morial pointed to three Supreme Court rulings he believes played a pivotal role in making it harder for people of color to vote: Citizens United v. FCC in 2010; Shelby v. Holder in 2013, which struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act; and Husted v. Randolph Institute in 2018, which upheld an Ohio law used to purge voter rolls.
“Shelby was just one of several blows against democracy that this Supreme Court has struck in recent years. It struck down campaign finance reform laws in Citizens United and unleashed the unbridled financial power of super PACS where wealthy individuals could pour unlimited money into the American political process,” said Morial. “And most recently in [Husted], the court upheld the right of states to use aggressive purges to remove voters from the registration rolls a process that disproportionately affects communities of color.”
On the state level, legislatures in several states have established barriers to voting in recent years.
In Tennessee, a new law imposes fines of up to $2,000 for voters who fill out inaccurate or.