Ross Wilburn knows he has two targets on his back at all times: He’s a high-profile public official and he’s Black.
Wilburn, a state representative and chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, is used to being on the receiving end of racist remarks; however, three incidents earlier this month, including a threat of lynching, caused him to reach out to law enforcement for help.
The first occurred when he received an anonymous voicemail Saturday, Oct. 9, that referenced him being lynched. Wilburn had an op-ed published in the Des Moines Register that day criticizing former President Donald Trump—who was in Des Moines for a rally—and Wilburn thinks that was the impetus for the messages.
The next day, Wilburn received another anonymous message filled with explicit language, including calling him the N-word, but it included no threats of violence. The following day, he received an email to his legislative address that also included racist language.
“Unfortunately, these types of threats are not uncommon for myself or other people of color serving in public roles,” Wilburn said during a media session on Tuesday.
Wilburn’s initial reaction to the messages was anger, but that turned to frustration and exhaustion.
“You get numb to it because it happens—like I said, it’s not uncommon—but when you introduce racist language, stereotypes, and those types of things and violent actions, that’s when it kicks it up a notch,” he said.
For people asking to see proof, Wilburn said it shouldn’t matter and that the discourse surrounding public meetings around the country and state shows what happened to him isn’t farfetched.
“Putting me aside, look at, again, what’s going in the public meetings and ask yourself again is that OK,” he said. “I don’t think it is and I’m encouraging others to step forward and say, ‘It’s not OK.'”
Wilburn also noted he would consult with his attorney on whether or not to release the voicemails.
Wilburn said his partner was the one who encouraged him to make the report to law enforcement and said the situation is being investigated by the Ames Police Department and Iowa State Patrol.
“I do intend—if they are able to find the person or persons behind this—to press charges,” Wilburn said.
by Ty Rushing