“Dr.” Umar Johnson, or Why Homophobia has No Place in the Black Community

I came across “Dr.” Umar Johnson after seeing a clip of his Breakfast Club interview on Facebook. In the video, he was speaking about the blatant racism he experienced in China.

 

I listened to him and everything made sense to me, but I was left wondering 1) Where is his getting his references and 2) Is he an actual “Dr.”?

I initially came to the conclusion that his “Dr.” title was a term of endearment that people from his community gave him. Conversely, that same title he receives from his community, should not exist at large if he has not done the extensive work. But I didn’t really read too much into it.

When I came across another one of his Breakfast Club interviews, I watched with a little more apprehension this time. Again, he was very insightful, and although there is a lack of references, it makes sense. But, as I watched the video in full, Umar started to state some very uneducated statement that revealed to me that he was not a true scholar.

Now, there is a lot to unpack in this video and many more of his interviews, but I am focusing, in this post, on his statements regarding queer[1] folks.

Around 21:17 in the video, he begins to talk about his stance on the “LGBT issue,” and he prefaces this by saying that he does not hate anyone. Red Flag: Anytime someone starts off with “I don’t hate anyone…” a but is usually followed after that, which completely does away with the whole “I don’t hate anyone” speech.

He continues to say that he does therapy with homosexual males all the time and cites (from his experiences with them) issue that leads many of them to “the homosexuality” was childhood molestation (not all, he says) by an adult when they were a child and expresses his empathy for that. He continues,

I’m not gonna go around ridiculing somebody because they gay, lesbian or bisexual because I know there’s issues in their childhood that help bring that about. But at the same time I reserve the right to say I don’t think this is in the best interests of my community but I’m not going to support it because I don’t see the long term benefit in practicing this type of behavior in my community.

When asked whether or not people are born gay, his response:

A lot of murders said they were born murders. A lot of pedophiles said they were born pedophiles. So, if we’re going to say there’s a gay gene, we’re going to have to open up the conversation to say there’s a pedophile gene. Which means that if I molest children I shouldn’t go to jail because after all it was in my DNA. Be careful about opening up one door, because you got to open up all of them doors.

This type of rhetoric is dangerous and equally sickening because it, at first, seems to express a type of respect and empathy for queer people, but looking deeper it reinforces the same type of hate that marginalizes them. Umar, however, is very careful in not group ALL queer folks into the same category as victims of sexual assault, yet, he only speaks about the “95%” (his “research”) of black and Latino men he provides “therapy” for. By focusing only on the “95%,” many people of color who are already homophobic are thus encouraged to associate queerness in people of color as something that is indicative of childhood sexual assault. A conclusion like this is not only offensive and inapplicable to many queer folks, but also to childhood sexual assault victims.

The dated belief that if gayness is accepted as normal then so will pedophilia is highly inaccurate simply because sexual attraction to the same sex (or all sexual attraction for that matter) is an attraction between consenting human beings. Anything that is not that is not appropriate. I hope we, as a society, can agree on that. Now, there are queer predators, and they are exactly that: child predators that happen to be queer. But there are many straight predators, if not more, and that’s what many people like Umar neglect to acknowledge.

One of his main points for the reason for one’s non-normal sexuality is related to a lack of a relationship with their respected same gender parent. Not only does this claim trivialize studies in human sexuality, but it also provides very limiting boundaries for a person to refer to the origins of their sexuality. While these factors may have an influence on one’s sexuality, they are not the only factors. Umar also equates being a (black) lesbian with the fact that they are sick of the abuse they’ve received by black men. Again, this comment not only offends lesbian folks, but also women who have been in abusive relationships with men.

Another thing that I find vile about Umar’s comments is that he expresses a type of superiority over all black people when he says that “practicing this type of behavior” (that is same-sex sexual behavior) has no “long term benefit” in his community. To which I read as Queers can’t procreate so they are useless. This presents the idea that to be deemed “functioning” is only associated with the ability to procreate. I have always found this claim interesting because the same claim is not said for many straight people who are infertile or chose not to make babies. This comment seems to only apply to queer folks. However, a claim like this places all people, regardless of sexual orientation, in an oppressed state when they are unable to achieve a patriarchal sense of sexual ableness. Also, the idea that everyone needs to procreate is highly destructive to our growing population and never-growing Earth. Re: China.

In another video, Umar says that homosexuality can be cured. But if infertility is his issue, then why does he not try to contribute to research that deals with infertility? Furthermore, if the normalization of pedophilia and murdering people are issues that he is concerned with, then why does he not combat those issues. Why are these arguments brought up when discussing anything queer? Why are a group of people subjected to such an association and why do people blindly believe this?

After doing some research, I not only found out that Umar (or Jermaine Shoemake) does not have a Ph. D, but also that he has lied about being a relative of Frederick Douglas and money he was raising to build a school for black children is a fraudulent scheme (Refer to that this The Root article).

The sad thing is that I wanted to believe this man and the poignant points he was making. I wanted to believe that I knew yet another person of color with a Ph. D. I wanted that extra motivation from seeing this seemingly educated black man speak about black issues. But that was all done away with.

One thing that Umar represents, and the reason I am reacting so violently toward him, is that the type of rhetoric—filled with hate, contradiction, and ignorance—that plagues the black community under the disguise of what is considered “black manhood.” I have experienced this rhetoric first-hand, being a queer man of color living in the south. It has not only made me question myself, my existence, my competence, but it has also attempted to shape me into a deeply flawed and false formula of what a “man” is. I was always told that evilness makes a person queer, but no, evilness is the very people and culture that contribute to the invalidation of a person’s existence in a larger community.

This type of hyper-masculine dominance that often places women and feminized men as second class citizens has no place in my community. Sadly though, this is the type of people many black people listen to and believe (speaking from my experiences), not knowing that it does nothing to progress our communities, and only leaves an undying tension between a larger community. It only makes it harder for future black scholars when they try to relay information to their communities and are met with hate simply because they are queer.

If you are for black people, then you must be for all black people. I will continue to say this.

Even with all of this, I can say that I do (or at least I think I do) understand the fear of femininity and queerness in the black community. It all comes from this fear that to be gay is to possess a “white disease.” Post-Civil Rights movement, you start to see the rise of the gay rights movement. What tends dominates in media representation of the gay rights movement are images of cisgender gay white men. Seeing that then and it still manifesting today, when black folks (and possibly all people of color) see queer black folks, they view it as an influence from the very whiteness they are oppressed by[2].

There is often a strong focus on the sexual part of queerness and not the fact that people can actually feel love from someone who is not the opposite gender. Sexual normalcy seems to be determined by a traditional society that values procreation as the norm. I don’t think I need to explain how problematic such a norm is. When people are not able or choose not to contribute to this norm, they are met with backlash. A person’s competence is not based on their ability or willingness to partake in procreation. Such is a fact that can never stop being repeated.

Similarly, homophobia expresses what all phobias do: an irrational fear. In this case, it is an irrational fear to accept that the society in which we live does not benefit all people due to a lack of understanding of each other. An irrational fear to understand that traditional gender roles are confining and flat out bullshit. An irrational fear to believe that human connection is not based on the ability to make babies, but an actual consensual connection person to person, absent of childhood trauma.

Once we concur these fears and misconceptions we can begin to progress as a society. When we let fear concur us, we stay in the same place; there is no room for progression when fear is in the driver’s seat.


[1] Here, and throughout this essay, I use the term “queer” to be inclusive of all sexualities.

[2] I will attempt to tackle this in another blog post.

 

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