Popular speaker and social media figure Dr Umar Johnson spoke in Lehigh on November 2 for an event titled ‘Let’s Talk Critical Race Theory’.
The event, attended by around 130 people, was sponsored by the African Student Association, the Black Student Union, the Office of Student Affairs and the Lehigh National Society of Black Engineers.
Hajer Sabil, 23, president of the African Students Association, said the club wanted to bring a different perspective to the Lehigh campus.
âWe thought, ‘Let’s educate people because they might not understand critical race theory,’â Sabil said. âThen we tried to find someone who would be able to teach the topic, who would be qualified to teach the topic, and someone who would be attractive and get people to come out and listen. “
Johnson Instagram biography identifies him as a “Certified School Psychologist, Doctor of Clinical Psychology, Author, Panafrikanist, Educator, FDMG Director, Special Education Consultant, NIBPA”.
He has over 789,000 followers on Instagram and over 163,000 followers on Twitter.
Johnson has gone viral for some of his past statements opposing interracial and same-sex marriage and supporting certain conspiracy theories. This story has led some to question his presence on campus.
During his November 2 speech at Neville Hall, Johnson discussed critical race theory, Pan-Africanism, voting, his views on marriage and other topics.
CRITICAL BREED THEORY
Johnson’s first mention of Critical Race Theory came 40 minutes after the start of his two-hour speech.
Johnson said Critical Race Theory is a concept designed to critically examine the role of race in American law, institutions, mass incarceration, gentrification, and police genocide.
He defined it as a set of academic approaches to explaining race issues in the United States and how they intersect with institutions and systems.
âIt forces America to stop hiding behind this ‘race doesn’t matter’ cover,â he said. “It forces America to deal with the group of people they can’t stand the most – and that’s the African American.”
Johnson said that while he supported the ideas behind Critical Race Theory, he believed America would never support it.
âIf you think America is ever going to co-sign an academic approachâ¦ that says, ‘We’re going to start teaching white kids that racism has made their country great,’ then you can forget about it,â Johnson said.
Johnson said he believed many critical race theorists to be “economic and academic con artists.” He said critical race theory is a distraction from the real issues black people face.
âThis is just another plan to get government approval so that we can write books (and) earn millions of dollars,â Johnson said.
Johnson’s Pan-Africanism is at the heart of his agenda.
Johnson said that a Pan-Africanist is someone who believes that all Africans are members of one human family.
“We are one family and we believe that all Africans must first identify as Africans, which means that religion is not more important than being African, not your brotherhood, not your sorority, not your professional associationsâ¦ not your national flag, but being African, âJohnson said.
Johnson said that from a Pan-African perspective, one of the reasons Africans have struggled to achieve full equality in places like the United States is because they have divorced their political and economic struggle to the larger struggle of the African continent.
He said he had traveled the world to speak by invitation.
âNo matter where I go, the European Jew is in a position of respect and power,â Johnson said. âNo matter where I go, the Chinese are in a position of respect and power.â¦ No matter where I go, the African is in a position of economic powerlessness and political irrelevance.
Johnson said unity among Africans around the world is important.
He said that if African Americans do not help Africa achieve independence, then Africa cannot help them either.
âAt the heart of Pan-African thought, we all stand up together, or we don’t stand up at all,â Johnson said. “It’s all for one and one for all.”
In Johnson’s previous videos and speaking engagements, he has taken controversial positions on interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, and COVID-19.
Speaking to Lehigh’s student room, he explained his disapproval of the interracial marriage.
âIt’s not because I think the white woman is inferior to the black man,â Johnson said. âIt’s not because I think the white man is inferior to the black woman. The reason I don’t support the marriage of black men or women outside of race is because marriage is a financial institution and in most cases women live longer than men. So if Dr. Umar marries a white woman, when I die, she will inherit my estate. And what are the odds that this privileged white woman will take a ride to North Philly and deposit a million dollar check for the black kids in the ghetto? She is not.”
Johnson said his aversion was not to hate anyone, but rather to “take care of yourself.”
Johnson said in a precedent video that he does not support same-sex marriage.
During his address to Lehigh, Johnson said that “they are pushing same-sex relationships in Africa to have an impact on the birth rate.”
Johnson has also more recently enacted conspiracies about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
VOTING AND POLICY
With Johnson’s event falling on election day, voting and politics were relevant topics he addressed.
At the start of his speech, Johnson said neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties took the black vote seriously.
“Nothing will change (for) Africans in America until you leave both the Democratic Party Plantation and the Republican Party Plantation,” Johnson said. âI don’t care who you come home to and who you vote for. They will betray you. Black people need their own political movement.
Johnson has said that since Joe Biden was elected president, he has done nothing for black people.
“Where’s the police brutality bill?” ” he said.
Johnson noted that Biden had passed an anti-Asian hate bill and one protecting transgender people.
“I don’t have a problem with the transgender bill or the anti-Asian hate bill, but I do have a problem with George’s police reform bill being Floyd still has not been passed by Congress, âhe said.
Johnson also criticized former President Barack Obama.
Johnson said Obama took everything Johnson’s ancestors fought for and refused to apply it to people who died for it.
âInstead, you ceded my civil rights to LGBTQ,â Johnson said. âYou have ceded my civil rights to the feminist movement. And you ceded my civil rights to the Mexicans … and that’s okay if you want to make sure other groups get equal treatment. But if my people died for it, my people should eat first. And we still haven’t eaten.
The Union of Black Students posted A declaration two days after the speech, apologize to members who did not feel represented or who thought the speech provided a safe space.
Sabil said she hoped Johnson’s speech would help the student body understand why conversations about Black Lehigh’s student experiences needed to go more.
Sabil declined to comment on Johnson’s history of controversy.
Josline Mitoguena, 23, who attended the event, said she had preconceptions about what Johnson was going to talk about.
âTo be honest, I was pretty nervous to hear his comment,â Mitogeuna said. âI will say that I don’t 100% agree with everything he said. I think a lot of his ideas are very inspiring and they make a lot of senseâ¦ I can definitely pick the right one, but I can also dissect the less positive aspects of it and make my own peace with what it says.
Precious Omoike, 25, who was also in attendance, said she liked the speech.
âMy biggest takeaway is education, knowledge is power,â Omoike said. “And also just black people as a whole, Africans as a whole, uniting because there is a lot of division between Africans and black Americans.”
Courteney Parry, 22, did not attend the event and said Johnson speaking to Lehigh made her uncomfortable.
âIt makes me very frustrated because I feel like you have to do the job on the ground when you bring people in,â Parry said. âYou have to watch what they talk about and how they talk about it.
Ric Hall, vice president of student affairs, said he was aware of comments from students on social media questioning Johnson’s presence on campus.
Hall said it is important in any higher education institution to have different points of view.
âI think if we can’t have a diversity of thoughts and opinions on a college campus, I don’t know where we can,â Hall said.
He said the decision to have a speaker on campus or not comes down to the safety and security of the campus. Johnson was deemed safe to come.
âThis is the dividing line as to whether or not a speaker can come to campus,â Hall said. “Other than that, we welcome the exchange of ideas.”