I’ve been meaning to write this for a long while now and it’s finally come to a head after an article I read and debate I had about Dr. Umar Johnson, a well known figure in the push for education reform. Along with Dr. Johnson’s information on the disparities and inequalities in the American education system comes a host of rumors, fraud allegations, and angry people who disagree with his strong opinions.
Anyone who stands in front of a microphone and professes their truth must know that the spotlight shines on not just your words, but every part of your being. In an age of celebrity spectacle, listeners want to know about one’s personal life, beliefs, opinions, economic status, and any and everything they feel they are entitled to. But are they?
I wrestle with this notion simply because the general public want privacy and yet seek to expose those that give the information they may need. No one man has all solutions to the fallacies we are surrounded by, but is it right to expose the dirt on someone that isn’t relevant to the message they are attempting to get across? I think not.
I have my issues, some of which you have seen in past blog posts, videos, or by knowing me personally. I won’t run from them nor will I divert attention from them because my struggles (past or present) make me who I am. But I would rather the masses hear my faults from me and make a determination about my character rather than someone who either has no clue or holds a one sided view. There’s 3 sides to every story, and while the people harmed may profess an altercation to be grander than what it is, the person who caused the harm will minimize the situation to prove a contrasting point; and then the truth may or may not surface.
I speak from my experience in being involved in the Black community as an activist and poet, and in this realm there are those who will expire all means to destroy the credibility of another person publicly. Those standing in the public eye are well aware or should be aware that this is the case. It’s not fair, and it’s spiritually and mentally draining to have your personal business blasted on a mass scale. But honestly, I think having your personal life exposed does 2 things; 1. It gives understanding followers a history of your background, and instead of taking it for face value, most people with discernment can understand through your past why you were given the task or gifts you were given. 2. It also gives the people that despise you something to talk about. Since destroying you is their focus, gossip keeps your name spoken and in the hearts of those awaiting your downfall. Think about it this way, to gossip takes more than one person, so you know that at least 2 or more people are speaking of you at any given time. So embrace the rumors, clear them up or clarify as needed.
The people doing the exposing should also ask themselves 2 questions; 1. Is the information I’m exposing a set back or a move towards progression for the movement I am a part of? Anyone can justify wrongdoing by proclaiming its for a greater good, and as The Honorable Bill Cooper says, no one wakes up in the morning and sets out to do evil, they literally do not perceive what they’re doing is wrong. Asking yourself how your information affects those around you shows that you’re about the movement without showcasing a biased agenda.
2. Is the information you’re exposing relevant to the message the exposed person is giving or what they stand for? When we use our imagination one can find so many ways to connect dots that have no relevance to one another. For instance, in the article I read about Dr. Johnson, the author exposed that he has 2 open child support without any mention of the circumstances that led to court involvement. I’ll leave my perception on child support to the side (for now…) but what does that have to do with the need for an education system that engages young Black boys? Yes one can say that apples and oranges are both fruits that grow from trees, but again the relevance to one another are very remote and distinctly different.
There is no such thing as a perfect anything, except Love, and even that is tainted by our perceptions of what we think Love is. In an age where so many people are breaking their silence and spreading messages of injustices and solutions to them, it would be difficult to hear someone speak out that doesn’t have a few spots on their past or even present that are not proud of. That in no way means that we should condone someone’s dirty deeds, or their use of their persona to bring mischief into them, but how can any man expose another for things they have done when we all have fallen short or dropped the ball in various areas of our lives. People have a habit of judging a man not by his heart or the message delivered, but from the dirt we can expose about them, which can easily be concluded as wrong and immoral. We look for perfection in those that possess the bravery to stand in front of the masses and yet we are not perfect ourselves. Most people lack discernment and understanding and yet we seek this in the leaders we watch and follow. Is it because they are doing something you never did, or have courage that you never had?
With that being said, how easy was it to turn away from the known fact that Dr. Martin Luther King was an adulterer? How quickly did we forget that Hillary Clinton knew about the of smuggling weapons through Libya, into Syria, and into the hands of known terrorists? We knew and saw so many contradictions surrounding people in leadership positions and yet those facts are swept under the rug and emptied from the American mind.
I doubt this nation will ever get to a point where tabloid bullet points don’t make us salivate. But before discrediting the leader, we should first self-scrutinize, and then lead ourselves.
Dr. Umar Johnson is one man with a checkered past and arguably present, but the information he gives can be used to build institutions and programs that will outlive the gossip, rumors, or even dirty facts about the man himself. Now his opinions are very questionable and anyone has the right to disagree with them, but I encourage you not to look at the man, which is human flesh, understand the gift within the man, which is divine.