When It Comes to America’s Race Issues, Russia Is a Bogeyman

Osei-Opare, Nana

As Black Lives Matter protests against police killings of Black people began spreading across the United States in late May, it did not take long for Russia to wade in. Russian media outlets jumped on the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, highlighting America’s grave racial injustices. Russian bots helped spread disinformation about the protests. In the United States, members of the House and Senate intelligence committees warned against Russian incursion and urged that the government take action to prevent Russian involvement while noting that Russia was not inventing racial tensions but seeking to exploit them. But such calls also play into a century-old narrative in which the U.S. government’s recurring anxiety around foreign-led radicalization of African Americans recycles old tropes about Black people being politically gullible and vulnerable to foreign meddling. If a repeat of this aspect of the 2016 U.S. presidential election is to be avoided, the government must not use a bogeyman of Russian interference to dismiss Black activism once again.