CW: ableism, sexism, misogynoir
I’m hella irritated and upset today. One of my friends (also a former professor of mine) tagged me in a post about a month ago about this frankly triggering and upsetting event happening on Monday in Omaha. An “expert” psychologist who specializes in hate and misogynoir–preaching it, not unpacking it–will be presenting.
I didn’t think that this day would actually come because I hoped, and somewhat had faith, that our community would have denounced such a horrible person, but apparently that hope and faith was misguided. The irony of it all is that his lecture is titled “Understanding the Mis-Education Machine.” Dr. Umar Johnson is coming to UNO and I have never been more disappointed and infuriated by our Black Studies Department.
[For the ease of argument, I will use the binary terms of men and women here, and unless otherwise noted, I will be referring to cisgender heterosexual men and women. Otherwise I will use the term “people” to include everyone on the spectrum.]
This is what happens when we believe degrees are indicative of intellectual capacity, and that reasonable intelligence as defined by white America’s standards makes you an expert. Apparently I need to tell y’all why supporting this man is such a bad idea. Not only as a feminist, as an activist, as a Black person, but as a human being who does not, will not support the dehumanization and erasure of other human beings.
Johnson is a fake woke hotep hypocritical con artist.
First let’s talk about what he thinks he knows; he’s using white-defined ideologies of success and power to try to rewrite a system of inequality to over-privilege the Black man instead. I never trust someone who builds a platform on being woke and yet and still uses education and white ideological manifestations of achievement and success as his qualifications. Meaning, you shouldn’t have to keep telling me how aware you are–what you do and say should be enough. If you keep talking about how much you know rather than what you know or how you know what you know, then I don’t trust you or your self-proclaimed “expert status.”
I sat through his interview with the Breakfast Club. Part of the issue is that the other two men, Johnson’s interviewers, are steeped in the toxic masculinity preached by the Black male patriarchy. It became apparent after a few minutes that he just truly doesn’t understand social constructionism or oppression, and he is not the expert that he says he is, because he’s missing and misintrepreting the basics. Before we get into how poorly he understands basic biology and sociology, though, let’s talk about his language.
“When a boy cannot conduct himself like a female, he’s marginalized and castigated.”
There’s so much wrong with this (including how feminity is but let’s, for now, focus on Johnson’s use of the term “female”.
PSA: Your biological sex is not your gender. Gender is a spectrum and not a fixed identity; it is fluid. Similarly, using “female” as a gendered noun is literally reducing a woman (human being) down to her scientific classification (less than human).
Do you do this for men? No. Socially when we talk about men we say men, and when we discuss masculine scientific characteristics of biological men we say males.
Speaking of biology and in general statistical accuracy, let’s talk about some of the key points Johnson is missing:
- “…boys have testosterone. Females have estrogen.” Men and women both have estrogen and testosterone in their bodies.
- “When 97% of America’s teachers are middle class white females…” I don’t know where he’s getting this statistic from, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 74% of all educators are women and 10% of all educators are Black. Things aren’t great but are most definitely not as dire as he presents them to be.
- “I refer to ADHD as Ain’t no Daddy at Home Disorder…” There’s a small link between ADHD and other chronic health conditions and single parent homes, but jump from that to single mothers is extreme, especially when you directly imply Black mothers. By the way, that’s misogynistic.
- “Because MR is no longer legal, you can use it in social conversation… it’s acceptable now because it’s no longer technical jargon.” For any and all that are confused what ableism in action sounds like, it’s this. Ableism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with physical, mental and/or emotional disabilities.
- “Police are selectively exterminating African American males.” Because it’s only males that are being targeted? Oookkkk………………………….. #SandraBland #RekiaBoyd #MariamCarey #LamiaBeard #TanishaAnderson #KindraChapman #YvetteSmith #SheilyFrey #DarneshaHarris #PapiEdwards #JoyceCurnell #MelissaHarris #MyaHall #ShantelDavis #RalkinaJones #PennyProud #RaynetteTurner #ShereeseFrancis #AiyanaStanleyJones #TarikaWilson #TyUnderwood #SayHerName #BlackTransLivesMatter #BlackWomenMatter
- “So I’m not going to go around ridiculing somebody ’cause they gay or lesbian or bisexual because I know there’s issues in their childhood that helped bring that about, but at the same time I reserve the right to say I don’t think this is in the best interest of my community.” I feel like this quote especially is what a lot of people refer to when they say they love and agree with Johnson; it’s boiling other sexualities outside of heterosexuality down into a traumatic side effect of abuse rather than a choice or even just embracing one’s identity. It’s saying, “if you don’t like your binary biological sex opposite, then there’s gotta be something wrong with you.” Ironic, for someone who claims to be an advocate against the disproportionate and unfair representation of mental disorders in the Black community to unfairly project a harmful, inaccurate and unfair archetype of Blacks who choose to be something other than society has normalized.
Side Note: Unpopular opinion in Black America – beating your children creates psychological trauma and distress. There’s a ton of articles and research on this, so I’m not getting into it. You can just google it. Now back to the subject at hand.
Being related to someone does not mean that you should be worshipped, followed or believed just because you share DNA.
According to his website:
“At 37 years old, Dr. Umar Johnson is a shining beacon in the fields of Black Psychology and Black Education. Dr. Umar has presented before embassies, stadiums, museums, schools, universities, churches, correctional facilities, community centers and international audiences. With the genealogy of Douglass and determination of Garvey, Bro. Johnson’s Fire is unstoppable!!!”
So he’s a descendent of Frederick Douglass? Great. What Johnson is forgetting is that his ancestor’s success is not a flag of respectability and authenticity. Also, we do not exist in the same society (thank God) and that what his ancestor preached, while relevant, was also intricately indisoluble from the society he existed in and the knowledge available to him. Simply put, as people in our society found more ways to describe, identify and understand oppression, they started to realize it was a bit deeper than what was previously believed.
The Black male patriarchy isn’t “a difference of opinion.” It is another manifestation of the white supremacist heteropatriarchy in the Black community.
Preaching the patriarchy is when you say that men and women should act a certain way, ignoring that gender and sexuality are spectrums and that oppression is infinitely complex and intricately tied to self- and social identity.
Now a lot of what I have seen on social media says that “You may not like what he has to say but he’s not wrong.” Honey, he is dead wrong. If you are preaching social awareness from a lens that oppressor created for you, then chances are you’re just preaching a different evolution of that same oppression.
He is the quintessential semi-aware Black cishet man who almost got it right but ran the other way when things got too uncomfortable for his masculinity. Because of this, Johnson almost gets a lot of concepts right, but then goes off in a hotep tangent. Like for example this one:
“We don’t have the luxury of being one dimensional… even though we are in a state of crisis, we don’t act like it.”
I can agree with this the first half of this statement, and to some degree, the second. As an activist, I have often heard the rebuttal of “well we’re doing it to ourselves!” In a narrow, selective framework, this argument is valid; supported by facts and current events. We are hurting each other, hurting our communities and the Black collective identity. But how activists vs. general public vs. Johnson identify and understand this “state of crisis” is very different. How we define one-dimensionality, how we recognize the issues that challenge and dehumanize the Black identity are very different. It’s why I argue that education is so vitally important to the advancement and progress of the Black community and society as a whole. The Black community continuously ignores how cis- and heteronormativity are violently dehumanizing ideological frameworks that regularly not only dehumanize and erase others identities–they also are used as justifications for violence. People who do not identify as cisgender heterosexuals are seen as other, and while they may not be consciously understood as “lesser human beings,” the implicit epistemological understanding and explicit language constructs it. Basically, the collective Black community doesn’t hate gay people but they don’t want gayness rubbed in their faces, either. Because, abomination and Christianity. As I said in my MLK post:
Why have we forgotten the pulpit of Christianity where this message begins and seeps into the community was not a religion we collectively knew and claimed until white slave owners gave it to us? We pray to the white man’s God to liberate us from the white man, who uses the same God to justify our dehumanization.
And before you say Islam is different, you’re right. But any religion that gives you the right to dehumanize, to kill, to hurt and otherwise maim someone’s dignity and/or person is a religion that was created to empower one and enslave another. Why would you support something like that?
So back to the Black Studies Department–the reason I’m so upset is that, while there is a place for differing viewpoints to be discussed, harmful and oppressive viewpoints should not be supported, even in silence, by one of the oldest Black Studies departments in the nation. Shame on y’all.
Oh and finally, because it’s really irritating me–if we’re going to work within the white American lens of intelligence, then it’s “miseducation” not “mis-education.” Lauryn Hill got it right, but then again, she’s a Black woman. Too petty? Oh well.