Image: Lezing Dr. Umar Johnson
We actively encourage our readers to send us material. This week one of our readers reached out to us. After hearing that funds were being raised to bring Dr. Umar Johnson, known from the docu series Hidden Colours, to the Netherlands to speak on black empowerment alarm bells started ringing. In the following the reader asks what does homophobia and misogyny have to do with black empowerment?
Contesting the figure of Zwarte Piet as a racist icon has seemingly sparked a considerable anti-racist movement in the Netherlands. Several groups were formed that appeared to share a vision on exterminating racism in this country. Sadly, however, this shared vision is now being threatened by a divisive element: the introduction of American psychologist and motivational speaker Dr. Umar Johnson.
The Black Coalition, a collective of black-only groups, has arranged for Johnson to present a couple of talks in the Netherlands. This is highly problematic because Johnson has explicitly coupled his anti-racism with derogatory views on women, biracial and LGBT people. How does homophobia, misogyny and racism help black empowerment in the Netherlands?
Johnson’s homophobia comes to the fore in one of the videos on his site wherein he literally states that homosexuality constitutes a ‘mental illness’. In his view, homosexuality in black men is a result of white supremacy; it is created by white men in order to help stall black population growth. He believes it should be ‘treated’ in order to stop black men from ‘becoming’ gay. With tin-foil hat theories that reduce homosexuality to being a racist tool, his theory on racism instantly dehumanizes homosexuals of color and thus follows the colonial logic of seeing black men and women as animals to be bred for the accumulation of power.
It is profoundly sad that their anti-racism work is being actively hindered by repressing and discriminating diverse members of our own developing community.
He also disparages black female emancipation and success. Johnson considers the fact that black women in the U.S. are more likely to have a better job than black men to be the white invention of a so-called ‘she-male’. The ‘she-male’ has ‘the body of a woman but the psyche of a European white male’ and ‘two men can’t run the same kingdom’. He believes that slavery has resulted in a destabilization of ‘the natural masculine and feminine principles in the household’. In other words the traditional subjugation of women through patriarchal gender roles. As a result emancipated black women are now suppressing black men at home, says Johnson. And these men are rebelling and ultimately leaving their household, wives, and children. A tinge of homophobia and some major victim-blaming.
Furthermore Dr Johnson also sees issues with interracial (straight) couples and their biracial offspring. According to Dr Johnson, there has been an intentional creation of biracial children who look like Africans but ‘will be loyal to the white race’. ‘Biracial Africans’, he says, ‘that was a political strategy. White men deliberatedly sought to create a race in between so we can use them against our darker brothers.’ While he does state that biracial children with an African parent are African, his conclusion suggests something entirely different. Once again he reduces people to props in somebody else’s grand design and negates their agency.
In short Johnson thinks that sexualities other than heterosexuality need to be disciplined and treated. Black women who are at the intersection of patriarchal and racial oppression are the reason why black men are disadvantaged. And biracial children are seen as Trojan horses of whiteness as their issues with racial belonging are ignored.
In light of the above, it is alarming to see those in the Netherlands who have been fighting for equality embracing Dr Johnson’s non-inclusive views. It is profoundly sad that their anti-racism work is being actively hindered by repressing and discriminating diverse members of our own developing community. Presenting him with a stage to showcase these views lends legitimacy to them at a time when we should be working towards an ethics of inclusive equality.