Nyhiem Way, founder of United Sons & Daughters of Freedmen and Be The Power, recently held a 3-hour live discussion in response to Dr. Umar Johnson’s stance on reparations.
Johnson is one of several high-profile Black people who said Black Americans would frivolously spend reparations money.
“In my opinion, it’s a disinformation campaign that I believe is being started by Democratic operatives because they know that this topic is going to dominate the landscape in the 2024 election and there is no way to escape it,” Way said near the beginning of his video.
Way invited several guests to join him on the live to speak to a wealth of misinformation he says is being circulated.
“People don’t like when you speak out against their cultural heroes and icons and their thought leaders, they don’t like that stuff, but the truth is the truth,” Way said.
Here are three main takeaways from Way’s extensive response to Dr. Umar Johnson’s reparations for Black Americans.
1. Dr. Umar Johnson’s claims that American Freedmen (Black Americans) would waste reparations checks if there are no “internal reparations” first are offensive and have been debunked.
During the BTP live, Way played a video by Ibrahim Tanner in which he counters many of Johnson’s positions on reparations.
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“Everyone’s talking about reparations and I support reparations but I don’t support the way we’re going about it,” Johnson is shown saying in a past interview. “Number one: Getting a payout in any amount from the United States government right now in 2019, 2020, would be the worst thing we could do because we have no community infrastructure.”
“So if they gave us 20 trillion, a hundred trillion, a million trillion dollars, that money would be gone in two days. In fact, I would argue that white folks and Chinese is praying you get your reparations,” Johnson continued.
Johnson also said, “cash payout for reparations is a trap” because the government can take several steps to reduce the value of the money and many of the systemic issues Black people face would still persist.
“So let me get this straight. You don’t mind soliciting funds from these same poor Black folks to build a school but when it comes to the government paying out cash payments you got all the excuses in the world,” Tanner responded in his video. “The reason our trauma lingers on is because in America everything costs and, as a community, we don’t have the resources to get the help that we need.”
According to Way, Johnson’s continued claims that Black Americans are not yet fit to receive reparations is not only offensive but has also been debunked by data.
He noted he and other reparations activists “prefer using ‘American Freedmen” as opposed to ‘Black’ because “it helps keep the conversation centered on our specific ancestry/lineage.”
“Dr. Umar is so out of touch with this subject,” Tanner says in his video. “The reparation movement in America isn’t even focused on international compensation, not yet anyway. American freedmen are specifically focused on acknowledgment, redress and closure for the atrocities that happened in America during chattel slavery and remedying the badges of slavery that still plague our communities today.”
2. The $223,000 compensation reported by some media as the task force’s recommendation is being misrepresented.
Way invited California Reparations Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore and activist Chris Lodgson, lead organizer for a Coalition For A Just & Equitable California (CJEC), to clear up misinformation about the $223,000 number being reported as the task force’s recommendation for payment.
“It seems every success that comes out of the successful California reparations push, other people are trying to turn it into some form of negative,” Ways said, before asking Moore to clarify the number.
Moore said the task force had not recommended anything yet. Economists hired by the task force said the $223,000 was the “maximum culpability” the state owed to Black Californians descended from the enslaved who experienced housing discrimination in the state from 1933 to 1977, she expounded.
She also said the two-year task force used their first year as a “study phase” and the upcoming year will be a “development phase” to determine recommendations.
“The task force has not recommended any final recommendations yet, let alone recommendations related to compensation with monetary figures,” Moore said. “So for folks who are saying that the task force is recommending $200 such and such thousand dollars in reparations in the form of compensation, that is not true, just flat out not true.”
3. American Freedmen believe people create their own headlines to hurt the reparations movement intentionally.
Many reparations activists believe the misinformation campaign is intentional and some question Johnson’s motives.
“There will be intentional, on-purpose, not by accident misinformation and disinformation put out to hurt what we’re doing here in California so keep your eyes out and keep your ears open to that,” Lodgson said. “Make sure you’re connected people who are actually connected to the correct information and accurate information.”
“People gotta chill. There are people that just want to say stuff just for the sake of saying it,” Way said.
“People got to be informed with real and right knowledge, not fake information or fake news,” Tanner said. “Listen, I don’t have no problem with people and their ideologies and stuff. If you’re Pan-African, you’re Pan African … but for some reason, it seems like they’re on a mission to misinform ppl or to misguide people and make people think one way about something when they really should be thinking another way about it.”
The reason Freedmen felt it necessary to address Dr. Umar Johnson’s claims
When asked why he felt it necessary to host the Twitter space, Way told Moguldom it was important to counter the confusion.
“We felt that it was important to do a follow-up to our previous space refuting Dr. Umar Johnson for several reasons. 1) After Moguldum reported on the reparationists’ grassroots response to Dr. Umar’s previous misleading comments on reparations, other content creators also chimed in to refute what many feel are obstructionist tactics not only used by Dr. Umar, but several other Pan-Africanists,” Way said.
“Dr. Umar then went onto what he felt was a bigger platform (The Breakfast Club) to amplify his already debunked messaging in spite of the backlash from those of us fighting for reparations,’ Way added.
He continued, “2) We invited the Chair of the California Reparations Task Force, Kamilah Moore, along with Chris Lodgson of CJEC (Coalition For A Just & Equitable California) onto the Be The Power platform to clear up confusion about direct cash payments caused by misleading headlines in mainstream media which was also echoed by Dr. Umar Johnson in his Breakfast Club interview.
Photos: Dr. Umar Johnson on “The Breakfast Club.” (YouTube) / Nyhiem Way. (Twitter) / Stock Photo Of Money (Canva)