The National Urban League painted a dark picture in its annual State of Black America report.
On the campus of Clark Atlanta University, Urban League President Marc H. Morial argued that lawmakers, consultants and violent extremists — in Georgia and elsewhere — are plotting to “disenfranchise, delude, manipulate and intimidate American voters and establish a one-party rule” that hurts minority voters.
The report, “Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy,” also concluded that despite social and economic gains, Black Americans still get less than 75% of the wealth and other benefits that whites get.
In the 46-year history of the report, 2022 makes the first time that the civil rights organization has debuted it outside of Washington, D.C., a fact not lost on Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who used the occasion Tuesday to mark his 100th day in office.
“This makes me feel good about the relationship the city of Atlanta has with the National Urban League,” Dickens said. “And how major of a role Atlanta plays on this national stage regarding equity, access, inclusion and voting rights.”
Morial said voter suppression and growing income inequality could precipitate the collapse of U.S. democracy, arguing that “political forces have launched an all-out assault on voting rights that disproportionately affects the communities that we serve.”
“Democracy is under siege, and there’s a plot to destroy American democracy,” Morial said.
Morial didn’t name any political party or politicians, but the organization’s annual report criticized Republican and conservative efforts to suppress voting. Republicans and their supporters say stricter voting measures are needed to prevent election fraud.
Morial walked on stage at Clark Atlanta University chanting “Fight the Power,” as Public Enemy’s anthem played behind him. It was a blunt message and sharp turn from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” that greeted all of the other speakers.
He said efforts to undermine democracy had four tactics:
- Voter suppression, which includes targeted voter ID rules, limitations on voting hours and the removal of drop boxes;
- Gerrymandering, where new congressional lines are drawn to reduce voter strengths;
- Election sabotage, or the use of misinformation or disinformation, to overturn elections;
- Intimidation, which he called the most dangerous tactic, as election officials are attacked, threatened and replaced by conspiracy theorists.
Morial said his organization will continue to press Congress to end the filibuster and pass the John Lewis Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, both of which are stalled in Congress amid Republican opposition.
The Urban League also is urging Black voters to check their registration status, know their state’s voter ID laws and where to vote, and to vote in every election.
Christina Williams, a graduating senior at Clark Atlanta University and the founder of the student organization CAU votes, took Morial’s words and the report as a continued call to action.
“This is a really interesting time to be a student, especially at an HBCU as we are watching the world fall apart,” said Williams, who will be entering Harvard Law School in the fall. “I am blessed to have an opportunity to have a say in how we are trying to rebuild.”
Tuesday’s report also included the Equality Index. It found that while Black Americans have made economic and health gains, they have still slipped farther behind whites in education, social justice and civic engagement.
“These numbers change so little and so slowly,” Morial said. “What it tells me is that this institutional disparity based on race seems to be built into American society.”
The index, which has been published since 2005, found that the median household income for Black people is 37% less than that of white people, at $43,862, compared to $69,823.
Blacks are also less likely to own a home and are twice as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage or a home improvement loan, according to the Urban League.
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