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‘Not Owned by People Who Look Like Them’: Dr. Umar Johnson Triggers Debate After Podcast Clip Goes Viral About What Black People Need To Do Before Reparations

A 2021 survey reveals there are wide divides on the topic of reparations for slavery to the Black community. Noted Pan-Afrikanist Dr. Umar Johnson is one of the loudest voices, and he cautions if reparations come before the community has its own institutions the initiative would be in vain.

Dr Umar Johnson Reparations
Dr. Umar Johnson on “FLY SH#!T ONLY” podcast (Screensgrab Youtube/Fly Sh*t Only Podcast)

During an interview on the “FLY SH#!T ONLY” podcast, released in October, Johnson was asked if reparations would help the condition of Black people.

“If somebody is mentally ill, in a mental asylum or mental hospital, and you give him $1 million. Does it reverse the illness?” he asked rhetorically. “Does it do anything to treat his problem?”

The hosts on the show both say, “No.”

“Now, let’s take that to a community,” Johnson continued.

Johnson asked, “If a community has no institutions … no way to trap the money in their community … they own none of the institutions … and you drop a couple trillion dollars in that community …  how is that money going to benefit the people when all the institutions in the community that are going to take their money are not owned by people who look like them?”

“If we don’t responsibly spend the money we already have,” he urged the hosts to consider, “how can we spend more? What makes you think giving you more is gonna change your situation?”

Johnson, the founder and lead tour guide for the “Unapologetically Afrikan” Black College & Consciousness Tour, said he wants people to know he supports reparations, but with a caveat.

The clinical psychologist said the community has to learn better spending and self-investment patterns, saying he does not support “reparations externally” before the community starts to repair itself.

“Most of the saving that has to be done for Black people must be done by Black people,” he said, before adding, “and no amount of money is going to fix that.”

Johnson, who claims to be a descendant of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Bishop Alexander Wayman, continued: “No amount of money is gonna stop the Black woman from not trusting the Black man. No amount of money is going to make the Black man love his woman. No amount of money is going to stop Black women from frying their hair. No amount of money is going to stop Black men from dating outside the race. When you look at our deepest-rooted problems no money can fix them.”

You have to start at the root, Johnson believes, and once that is dug up the community can “replant” a healthier tree and ask the government for the “reparation” they owe.

People took to social media to blast Johnson for his comments.

One Twitter user who aligns himself with the Foundational Black Americans movement, helped kick off the discussion with a tweet that garnered nearly one thousand likes.

“Umar Johnson need Black Americans to be perfect for reparations. I swear when it comes to us, we have to hear someone throwing road blocks for what we are owed. It’s ridiculous! Our ancestors died making this country wealthy. Umar where’s your family from?,” he tweeted.

YouTuber the Plainest Jane also tweeted, “Some of yawl really standing by Dr. Umar saying ‘wE dOn’T dEsErVe rEpAraTioNs’ bcz he expects financial perfection from Black folk before we get it? Plz seek help.”

Though Johnson was trending with an overwhelming amount of disapproval, not everyone was against him.

“Dr. Umar made VALID points as it pertains to REPARATIONS. But nonetheless… it is OWED to us. & we’ll cross those personal bridges after we get what’s owed!” One person posted on social media.

Another person offered an example as to why Johnson is right, “If there is any indication of what Umar said in regards to reparations, look at what people did with stimulus money and PPP loans. No financial knowledge, discipline, plus immediate needs for survival with no infrastructure of our own means the money goes as fast as we get it.”

These comments came months after Pew Research released a study on attitudes about reparations for slavery in Black and white communities. A detailed breakdown shows that Americans are split not just by race, but by age and political party on the issue.

According to the research, “three-in-ten U.S. adults say descendants of people enslaved in the U.S. should be repaid in some way, such as given land or money. About seven-in-ten (68%) say these descendants should not be repaid.”

Only 77 percent of Black adults surveyed said reparations should be repaid in some way. The study also revealed 52 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that Blacks should be given money for their ancestors being brought from Africa to the then-colonies, while 76 percent of African Americans in the same age group believe so.

Ninety-one percent of American Republicans oppose distribution of wealth in the form of reparations to Blacks, while Democrats overall are split 49 percent against and 48 percent for.

For some, reparations are a no-brainer.

The Reparation Collection Agency informed one reason why Blacks should receive reparations, saying, “4 million of us were freed directly into homelessness, a punishable crime.”

Despite reparations for African-Americans being up in the air on a federal level, a couple of states and local governments have made steps to explore restorative justice.

Last year, Evanston, Illinois, became the first U.S. municipality to put forth a reparations plan for Black residents of the city. The city of Asheville, North Carolina, also created a commission to create a proposal on the issue.

In Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Jorge Elorza recently signed a $10 million budget for the Providence Municipal Reparations program.

“The radical thing that we did was we put Black voices in the center of city policymaking,” Elorza said about the program that focuses on helping the city’s Black and Native American residents, who automatically qualify, but also will include White residents that earn below a certain annual income.

This decision did not sit well with one social media user. One Twitter user said, “Stop with the nonsense.”

Michael Adams continued, “Stop calling this #reparation when white ppl are able to apply.”

On the state level, earlier this year California became the first to set up a state-level reparation task force to explore various ways to implement the allocation of funds, including invoking the conversation of “a lineage-based approach” to qualifying people for it.

On a virtual conference meeting over the summer called by the National African American Reparations Commission and moderated by Dr. Ron Daniels and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, several elected officials joined in a call to action to President Joseph Biden, demanding he issue an executive order to create a commission to study reparations, pushing a bill first sponsored by the late Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.

The Biden administration ran on the “Lift Every Voice” proposal to help Black Americans. Many issues were addressed through programs the president said he wanted to implement. However, he never directly advocated reparations in the plan.

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