Over the past week, News One Now with Roland Martin and The Breakfast Club invited lead hotep, Dr. Umar Johnson, as a guest to discuss his Pan-African views on the Black community. Per usual, his views dive from somewhat logical, to illogical, to outright hysterical, with several misstatements, disparaging remarks about certain segments of the Black community, and avoidance of questions around his actual credentialing.
Although Umar brings great ratings because of his adversarial tone and rhetoric, it leaves many of us in the community to question why we give such Black leaders (who are ironically at times anti-Black) platforms when they are in fact the ones who are destroying our communities.
“Dr.” Umar Johnson has built a platform as a leader in the Black community, with views based in patriarchy, hyper-masculinity, and a pseudo-intellectual dissection of intersectionality. He is often booked on large national platforms to discuss the destruction of the Black community which is often tied to homosexuality and Black women.
On multiple occasions, he has alluded to homosexuality in the Black community as a conspiracy by some unnamed group to create population control. Just this week during his interview with Roland Martin, he insisted that the inclusion of sex and gender in the Civil Rights Act led way to white women and homosexuals being able to strip the gains of the civil rights acts, making the bill inherently racist.
In all honesty, hearing the statement made me cringe and further demonstrates Umar’s unwillingness to recognize that Black and LGBTQ exist together at many intersections. Especially considering the fact that Black LGBTQ figures like Marsha P. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, and James Baldwin have all had a hand in our liberation, and that Black homosexuality has existed in Africa for thousands of years.
Umar’s rhetoric doesn’t stop at homosexuality. His attacks on Black women have also been well documented throughout his rise to infamy, as his sexist and misogynistic views have only added fuel to the division of gender within our community. He has stated that “single Black mothers” psychologically castrate their sons which in turn creates homosexuality within the Black community. He often alludes to the problems with the Black community starting and ending with the vagina and womb. As for the vagina, Umar feels that it is linked to the unconscious (I think he meant subconscious) mind and ties women who desire wild sex to having mental issues.
Mental issues that have simply not been dealt with and are being lived out through sex, further removing the agency of how a woman has the right to own her sexual being. He often talks about how Black Women’s wombs are magical, and that the act of abortion is genocide against the Black community as another form of state sanctioned population control. Never mentioning that abortion has several real needs based on circumstance, inclusive of the epidemic of children without fathers in the Black community which he seems to often skip over during his speeches.
Dokta Umar Johnson (who’s PHD has come into question) represents the worse type of activism in our community. In an article I wrote entitled “You Can’t Be Pro-Black with Conditions,” I discuss this type of activism in depth and why it is dangerous to our community’s advancement in society. Umar is insistent upon creating a hierarchal structure within our community, by which we either assimilate to or center our existence around the Black cishet male which sits at the top of all of Umar’s pyramid schemes.
He feeds into the patriarchal idea that the hetero Black man is the leader and protector of our community, and uses this as a vehicle for his following and divisive nature. Umar’s Blackness comes at a cost, with a set of rules that must be followed and abided by, removing, nature, nurture, experience, environment, and inherent right for Black folks outside of the norm to live in their truth.
As a leader based in heteronormative views, he is able to use his power, influence, and self-described academic credentials to be a “subject matter expert,” leading many away from the actual truth while tugging on their wallets. In a move similar to Creflo Dollar (who asked for his church to pay for a private jet), Umar has said that he wants to start a private school for Black boys. He originally stated he was going to purchase Saint Paul’s College, an HBCU that closed due to financial collapse, over five years ago.
His current GoFundMe page has over $375,000 and he is said to have raised close to $700,000, yet there is no school and no real plans of the who, what, where, when and why it will happen. Only a name and an opening date that moves year after year. When questioned on the school and money, it is met with more vagueness and evasiveness, leading many to begin to wonder if this school will ever see the light of day.
Liberation will never come from a top-down approach. I’ve said it hundreds of times, no one is free unless we are all free, particularly Black trans women. Black trans women in this country have a life expectancy rate of 35 years of age. People who identify as LGBTQ experience violence at much higher rates than our heterosexual counterparts, and said violence is often carried out by straight, Black men.
Liberation cannot come at the expense of disparaging the Black woman, who in fact has been the bloodline and backbone of community upbringing. You can’t gain freedom by destroying the very truthful and lived narratives of the very same people you are claiming to be liberating. Forcing people into a model that removes acknowledgment of who they are in effort to control who they should be is nothing more than a form of respectability politics, which we know has never saved a soul.
Mr. Johnson is nothing new to the Black community, as there is a long line of charismatic Black leaders who have used niche activism as a come up, knowing real liberation will never come from it. However, we as a community must stop propping these folks on pedestals, and denying them access to our platforms and our pockets. Liberation is either for all of us, or for none of us, and there is no way to get around that.
George M. Johnson is the Managing Editor of BroadwayBlack.com. He has written for Ebony, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram