Racist Online Threats Prompt Kiah Morris, Vermont’s Lone Black Female Lawmaker, to Withdraw Candidacy

Vermont lawmaker Rep. Ruqaiyah “Kiah” Morris (D-Bennington) announced she’s no longer running for re-election in the state’s House, citing the racist online harassment and threats she’s suffered during her tenure as among the reasons behind her departure.

Morris, the only African-African woman in the Vermont Legislature, clinched the Democratic nomination to serve a third term in earlier this month, Huff Post reported. However, being the target of online abuse has proved to be too much for the representative.

Rep. Kiah Morris

Rep. Ruqaiyah Morris says she’s suffered racist harassment and threats from white supremacist groups for more than a year now. (Photo by Jess Aloe/Free Press)

“I send this statement to announce my withdrawal of candidacy for re–election as a state representative for Bennington District 2-2,” Morris, 42, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post Friday. “These last four years of service have been incredible — an enormous honor and significant responsibility,”

“The last two years have been emotionally difficult for many,” she added. Political discourse and in particular, within the sphere of social media has been divisive, inflammatory and at times, even dangerous. It is my hope that as a state, we will continue to demand greater support and protections for one another from those forces which seek to divide and destroy our communities.”

Since her election to the Vermont Legislature in 2014, Morris has seen various threats and racist insults lodged at her by white nationalists and other hate groups, according to Vermont Public Radio. She said the racial harassment went on for more than a year.

“We had propaganda being left underneath the door of the Democratic Party,” she said in an interview with Vermont Edition on Thursday. “I had a home invasion, vandalism, even the woods near my house where we’d go and walk frequently as a family had swastikas painted all over the trees there. So many different things that have been happening that are not terribly unique to Bennington, unfortunately.”

In 2016, someone also directed a racist tweet at the Black lawmaker after she won the Democratic primary in her bid for re-election as a state representative in her largely white district.

This week, the Vermont Attorney General’s office promised to investigate the online threats that ultimately led Morris to withdraw from the House election. The Vermont State police will also assist in the investigation, VTDigger reported.

In the wake of her announcement, many of Morris’ supporters said they’re sad to see her go.

“We are, of course, extremely disappointed that the situation escalated to this level and we continue to work with Rep. Morris and authorities on accountability for the perpetrators …”  Vermont NAACP director, Tabitha Pohl-Moore, who helped the representative fight against the online harassment, told HuffPost in a statement.

“Her safety has been compromised by the actions of people who harbor intense, hateful, racist beliefs,” Pohl-Moore added. “I wish that I could say I was surprised, but I am not.”

Morris will serve out the rest of her term and will be replaced at the end of the year.

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