Iowa’s First Black Democratic Lead Gets Lynching Threat for Trump Op-ed

In Summary

The first Black chair of Iowa’s Democratic Party says he has become the subject of racist attacks, including a lynching threat, after denouncing former President Donald Trump and other Republicans in a recent opinion article. 

Ross Wilburn, the first Black chair of Iowa’s Democratic Party, claims he received a lynching threat for writing an opinion piece in the state’s largest newspaper criticizing former President Donald Trump and other Republicans, per the Associated Press

The article, titled “Iowa Republicans put loyalty to Trump over helping Iowans,” was published in the Des Moines Register on Oct. 8, a day ahead of a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds which consisted of tons of Trump supporters and even more Confederate flags. 

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“You’d think Iowa Republicans would recognize his toxicity and run away from it,” Wilburn said in the guest column. “Instead, they have made it clear that they would rather prioritize loyalty to the former president over defeating the COVID-19 pandemic, over creating more good-paying jobs, over investing in infrastructure, and over protecting our democracy.” 

Wilburn went on to say Trump’s “disastrous” track record speaks for itself, citing months spent trying to sabotage the election results and inciting the violent Jan. 6 mob which threatened his own former Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers who were “fulfilling their constitutional duty to certify our election.”  

“His incompetence killed Americans, gifted corporations and pharmaceutical companies trillions of dollars in tax cuts at the expense of the middle class, and created new incentives to ship jobs away from our country,” he added. 

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According to Wilburn, the first racist voicemail he received came in on Oct. 8 from a restricted number and ended with a threat that referenced lynching. In phone calls and email messages sent to his legislative account over the next couple of days, the Democratic leader says he was subjected to repeated racial slurs, among other things, per The New York Times’ Neil Vigdor

In light of the racial threats, some Republican state lawmakers have shown support for Wilburn, including U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. Grassley was among those directly called out both in the op-ed and during the rally for enabling Trump as he “openly attacked the foundations of our democracy,” per AP. 

Iowa is one of the whitest states in the country, with only 4% of the population being African American in 2020. With African Americans accounting for less than 3% of the Iowa Legislature, Wilburn’s experience is said to be part of a nationwide increase in racist and threatening communications directed at Black leaders in Iowa and across the country. 

It was reported in September that Joe Fitzgerald, the first Black police chief in Waterloo, Iowa, was stirring up controversy inside and outside the police department as he fought to bring on positive changes and police reform. 

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Democratic Rep. Ross Smith, who is also Black, noted he has encountered racist intimidation efforts since running for the Iowa House in 2016. 

Wilburn says he’s handed the racist messages and threats over to local authorities in Ames, Iowa, as well as state investigators, and he plans to press charges if the commenters are identified.

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