NAACP Holds #LivingWhileBlack Town Hall
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Thousands joined NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, National Urban League President Marc Morial for #livingwhileblack, a candid conversation about the passage of the prison and sentencing reform bill and learning from this year’s elections.
Panelists also spoke about NAACP’s #LogOutFacebook protest, the shifting political climate, and the work ahead in 2019.
The NAACP led a digital protest dubbed #LogOutFacebook on Dec. 19th in response to the tech company’s history of data hacks which unfairly target users of color, NAACP officials said.
The organization also called on Congress to conduct further investigations on Facebook after a report released for the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that the Russian influence campaign “made an extraordinary effort to target African Americans.”
Over the last year, NAACP officials expressed concern regarding the numerous data breaches and privacy mishaps in which Facebook has been implicated. Since the onset of the Silicon Valley boom, the NAACP has been openly critical about the lack of employee diversity among the top technology firms in the country.
However, recent revelations that Facebook hired an opposition research firm combined with its work with other deeply partisan strategy firms, call into question the notion that Facebook operates with a nonpartisan view, Johnson said.
“Facebook’s engagement with partisan firms, its targeting of political opponents, the spread of misinformation and the utilization of Facebook for propaganda promoting disingenuous portrayals of the African American community is reprehensible,” he said.
The NAACP has returned a donation it recently received from Facebook.
Johnson and others also used the Town Hall to discuss the effect the NAACP had on the 2018 midterm elections. “The biggest takeaway from the NAACP’s post-midterm election poll is that without the black vote, we don’t win,” said NAACP Spokesman Malik Russell, whose comment was tweeted out by Johnson during the Town Hall.
“Through our civic engagement campaign, we increased [voter] turnout twice as much as we did in 2014,” Johnson said. “This was a presidential level turnout.”
Morial spoke about the loss of wealth in the black community and the need to get it back. “We’ve lost 40 years of wealth, equity and homeownership as a community as a result of the Great Recession … we’re still burdened by the disproportionality of the credit system and the credit rating system, which negatively impacts African Americans,” Morial said.
Panelists noted that the while black homeownership fell from 47 percent to 41 percent after the recession (a number that reaches back to the levels of the 1970s), the current unemployment rate for African Americans is much higher than the national average.
“We still live in a nation where we call it the land of the free, but the incarceration rates disproportionately affect African Americans,” said Booker, who served as one of the keynote speakers at the Town Hall event.
Booker also lashed out at what he said was an unfair bail system that’s succeeded in keeping too many African Americans locked up. “We have in this nation what I call a debtor’s prison. People are wallowing in prison simply because they cannot afford to pay the bail cost,” Booker said.
For a full recap of the town hall, download and use Observer Interactive.