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Who is Dr. Umar Johnson?

He is your least favorite Facebook friend’s favorite “educator.” He also recently joined an exclusive club with Omarosa Manigault Newman.


What club?

The Niggas Without Jobs Who Still Somehow Got Fired This Month Club. They meet every Tuesday at Bruegger’s Bagels to play Connect Four.


He got fired? What happened?

He didn’t get fired, per se, as much as he’s currently under investigation by Pennsylvania’s State Board of Psychology for being a fraud.


So does this mean he’ll finally go away?

Not at all. Possessed with the spirit of Frederick Douglass—who’s apparently Johnson’s 19th step-cousin on his great-great-grandmama’s pet goldfish’s side—he’s going to fight these rumors and allegations, and his considerable fan base will continue to follow and support him.


Wait—he still has a considerable fan base and followers? Isn’t this the same dude who was given hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a finishing school for niggas with beards that still doesn’t exist?


And the same dude who, just last year, was on YouTube ranting about something called a “General Sara Suten Seti” and introduced us to iconic phrases such as “SPEAK YOUR SPEECH, NIGGA!” and “All your information comes from other niggas’ books”?


And the same guy who also happens to be misogynistic, homophobic and the type of guy to rock skullcaps in Florida hotel rooms while making said YouTube videos?

Yes. Same guy.

I don’t believe you.

You don’t have to. Type his name in a Facebook or YouTube or Twitter search box and you’ll find thousands of people armed with bizarre pro-Umar takes, lugging them around like squirrels lug acorns. And if you say his name aloud five times, a quart of ash will jump out of the mirror and stab you with an empty bottle of essential oils.


Please explain this to me. How does someone like that—a person who claims to be an educator, which is perhaps the most vital and influential job a person can have—still have people willing to be led by him?

Well, there are a few things happening here. First is the idea that singular (male) leadership is a requirement for any sort of progress. It’s a concept we’ve been indoctrinated with since birth—that all great things that have happened in history happened because one great man had some great ideas, and the rest of us listened to him. And because of this belief in the singular greatness of the male savior, some of us are willing to overlook obvious and damning flaws and contradictions because that singular greatness must be protected and preserved at all costs.


Also, a byproduct of that singular greatness belief is an equally problematic concept of assumed scarcity. Basically, for Umar Johnson’s supporters, he must be protected and preserved at all costs because there’s no one else with a pro-black message that could fill the void created if he weren’t around.

Never mind the fact that there are hundreds of pro-black educators with legitimate credentials and without the same cemeteries-ful of skeletons in their closets, a list that includes people I personally know (such as Brittney Cooper) and people I haven’t met in person yet but admire (such as Ibram Kendi)—easily accessible academics who are publishing and writing and teaching daily. They are only hard to find if you don’t realize you should be looking for them.


And then of course there’s the fact that many of his followers share the same values. They don’t believe that his opinions about black women and gay people are problematic because, well, they agree. On a larger scale, you saw this with (some) Alabama voters and Roy Moore. They weren’t upset by the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct because they just don’t see anything wrong with grown men pursuing romantic and sexual relationships with teen girls.

I’m glad you brought up Roy Moore because this isn’t a concept exclusive to black people.

Right! It definitely isn’t. What I just said about Umar Johnson could also be said about Donald Trump and thousands more white men who were followed and protected despite proving that they weren’t worthy of that support. There’s no specific pathology that makes black people more susceptible to these charlatans and chicken hawks. Race does matter, though.



In the case of someone like Johnson, it adds another level of faux persecution. Instead of him existing as just a man getting investigated by the state for being a fraud, it’s a black man whose messages of pro-blackness are so explosive, provocative and threatening that the state is conspiring against him. And behind this conspiracy are white people and their black agents. So it becomes a “race” thing instead of a “this nigga ain’t shit” thing.


I see. So what’s next?

The school will be built. And by “the school will be built,” I mean “That nigga stole y’all money and spent it on Bigen.”

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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