Dr. Umar Johnson, a prominent African-American psychologist and activist, was recently interviewed on the radio show The Breakfast Club. The wide-ranging conversation covered many issues facing the black community in America today.
Racism in America and Abroad
Dr. Johnson discussed his recent travels to China and Japan, where he observed overt racism towards blacks in China. He contrasted this with America's "civil rights culture" where racism is now more covert. However, he asserted that with the election of Donald Trump, America is returning to unapologetic white racist power, as it was founded on racism towards blacks.
Dr. Johnson traced racism back to its primary function - white genetic survival, not greed. He argued that no matter how much capitalism changes, racism will remain as long as whites see it as necessary for their survival.
The hosts and Dr. Johnson discussed the acquittal of the police officer who killed Philando Castile. Dr. Johnson was not surprised, given the precedent of officers getting away with killing blacks, going back to Rodney King. He warned that now even non-white officers are being allowed to kill blacks with impunity.
Black Family Structure
Dr. Johnson refuted the notion that slavery destroyed the black family structure. Black families maintained marriages even under slavery. The real damage to the black family began in the 1970s after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. At that point the government intentionally dismantled the black economic base, removing factory jobs from inner cities. Then the crack epidemic hit, incarcerating many black males. Also, churches began receiving federal funds, causing them to abandon civil rights activism.
Dr. Johnson asserted that black Americans suffer from an identity crisis. They know they aren't fully accepted as Americans but reject their African identity. He explained that his "Unapologetically African" movement got watered down to "Unapologetically Black" because black people are still anti-African.
The hosts asked Dr. Johnson about his view that Frederick Douglass made a mistake in marrying a white woman late in life. Dr. Johnson maintained that who you marry is a political act. Black men marrying white women signals disloyalty to the black struggle in his view. He attributed it to black men feeling inferior and wanting to claim the "white man's prize." Dr. Johnson argued that black men need to commit to black women as the ultimate symbol of pride in themselves.
Dr. Johnson prescribed self-love as the first step, saying blacks must love themselves more than they hate racism. He called for a "civil war" against the self-hate and disunity that prevents blacks from confronting racism in a unified way. Economic unity is key - he advocated starting black-owned banks as the center of uplifting black communities, rather than relying on black churches which don't economically empower blacks.
The hosts asked about the notion that getting an African Studies degree is a waste of money. Dr. Johnson largely agreed, saying black students today should make sure their major leads to economic security. They should also be able to explain how their career will contribute to uplifting black people. With over 2 million unemployed black graduates, education must result in tangible economic progress for the race.
In summary, Dr. Umar Johnson covered numerous issues plaguing black America and offered solutions centered on building economic unity, embracing African identity, and instilling self-love and discipline as the keys to empowerment. The wide-ranging interview provided insightful analysis of the state of black America from the perspective of a prominent black scholar and activist.