A new study looked at the sources of disinformation in the Black community. Sometimes, it be your own people.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Generations of Black folks have been subjected to false information, from textbooks saying slaves were happy to eccentric relatives who claim every white man is evil. Historically, the truth of our American experience is bad enough, yet it’s typically yeasted with unnecessary conspiracy theories, old wives’ tales and urban legends.

Those who consistently deliver false knowledge don’t always intend to mislead the audience. Ignorance is often the driving force. But they peddle misinformation.

That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about wicked institutions and individuals — white and Black — who constantly and purposely repeat false or misleading statements with an ulterior motive. Those vile actors know they’re selling poisonous fruit, deliberately manipulated narratives meant to inflict damage. Yet they keep hawking it anyway for political gain, financial rewards, social status, ego strokes or (when they’re Black) proof of self-hate. 

They traffic in disinformation and their business is booming.

According to a new report published by Onyx Impact — a nonprofit dedicated to fighting disinformation — at least 40 million Black Americans may be regularly targeted or reached with misleading and harmful storylines from six core online sources. To no great surprise, wingnut Candace Owens is listed among the most influential distributors of false information. Throw her in with other far-right Black activists, gateway influencers and platforms, toxic voices in the Black Manosphere, health skeptics, Black extreme nativists/separatists and opportunistic foreign actors, and we’ve got a brewing crisis that could explode on Election Day, Nov. 5.

As Zora Neale Hurston said, “All skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”

Granted, we must make room for honest differences of opinion and alternate points of view. The report found that three misleading themes (about civic disengagement, broken promises by President Joe Biden and division stoking) are the most significant threats to Black voter interest in the fall. But in the executive summary, it also acknowledged the “complex, ever-evolving nature of Black culture and our information ecosystem” and recognized that “the intentionality spectrum of harmful discourse is broad.”  

The report focused on “highlighting the most pernicious networks, narratives and influencers in these spaces,” but “rejects any attempt to use this research to make broad generalizations about the Black community or fuel divisions within the Black diaspora.” 

Far be it from me to intensify splits within the collective. I’ve always thought it makes sense to have a presence on both sides of the aisle, to have operatives working within both camps. Nowadays, it’s still easy to maintain that belief, at least in theory. 

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But in actuality, I struggle to respect Black MAGAs like Owens, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida. If they’re going to simply parrot the same disinformation that white MAGAs shovel — Donalds implied Black families were better off during the Jim Crow era — what good do they serve? They might as well wear hoods.

We expect a copious amount of intellectual dishonesty in right-wing spaces. The greater danger is when progressive outlets make room for such purveyors of prevarications. 

Wide-reaching shows like “The Breakfast Club” and “The Shade Room” are identified in the report as “gateway influencers,” authentic Black platforms with large Black followings. The shows are high-value targets for individuals intent on spreading disinformation. When hosts sit back without pushing back — like when “Fresh and Fit” podcasts include misogynistic guests who go unchallenged after questioning women’s intelligence — the bad actors win.  

“If Candace Owens is on ‘The Breakfast Club’ five times this year, we should have our trusted messengers on 10 times,” reads the report in providing strategic recommendations for the fight. “We should make sure informative ads/content and information is appearing on Gateway Influencers platforms constantly.”

It feels like we’re Neo, in “The Matrix Reloaded,” fighting Agent Smith and a dozen clones. Or Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones” during an onslaught of the calvary. We’re surrounded by disinformation, which costs almost nothing and enjoys growing support from generative AI. Attacks on the media and the abundance of fake news have created widespread distrust of authentic news sources. Disinformation was a go-to strategy during Reconstruction and the civil rights era, and deceptive practices have bulked up through technology and social media. 

“Ultimately, the fight against information in Black online spaces is not just about protecting democracy,” reads the report, “but also about creating safer, more salient information ecosystems that build trust, power and community.”

Naturally, those who want us to be disinformed, discouraged and dissuaded, act like their victory is inevitable. They’re mad disrespectful in gauging our intelligence and always overbid their hand. But we can’t take them lightly.

“The vast majority of people who consume [disinformation] is a small group of people,” Deen Freelon, a University of Pennsylvania professor and digital politics expert told NBC. “But in a close election, a small group of people can be sufficient to, at least potentially, sway the election one way or the other.”

Some of our family and friends have already been swept away.

We need more life preservers to save the rest.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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