Rep. Johnson removed from committees for doing her job, standing up for herself Racism, misogyny, and politics conspire to ostracize Michigan lawmaker
Rather than standing up to defend a colleague, Republican leadership decided instead to punish Rep. Cynthia Johnson, ostensibly, for her reaction to threats made on her life. House Speaker, Lee Chatfield stripped her of her committee roles following the release of an edited version of a video she made. The social media post stemmed from an oversight committee hearing on election results in which the Detroit Democrat dared to question accusations so comical that they translated to an SNL cold open with few revisions. As an armed mob gathered in front of the home of the Secretary of State, Joscelyn Benson, Johnson was receiving messages calling for her lynching. It is no coincidence that the imagery of the trauma inflicted upon Black people for centuries is being used now in an attempt to control the behavior of a Black woman in power. After the shock of this overreaction had sunk in, Rep. Johnson decided to go to Facebook live to make an appeal for the “shenanigans” to end, to remind potential perpetrators that there would be financial repercussions and, awkwardly, to tell soldiers to “do it right” and “make them pay”. This last part, taken out of context, was presented as evidence of a veiled threat. It isn't the first time this tactic has been used. When making the point that a member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers from Grosse Pointe was silencing the voices of people from Detroit, then Rep.-Elect Abraham Aiyash was accused of exposing their children to danger. In Johnson’s case, Rep. Mary Whiteford chastised her for sharing the death threats made against her and, in the same breath, feared that asking a witness to spell their name would likewise target them for violence. These same critics were eerily silent when white men with assault rifles glowered over lawmakers in and around their chambers as they tried to do their jobs. It’s as if their greatest fear is that one-day others will behave like them. Why condemn Rep. Johnson for, of all things, calling for law and order but not those who make actual threats which they are prepared to carry out? The last person to receive a reprimand as harsh as Rep. Johnson’s had already been indicted on federal charges. It is nothing more than gaslighting. This move sends a clear signal to Black people and especially to Black women: “We don’t acknowledge Black voices, least of all yours, and when you are threatened, you will take it and like it”. But here’s where misogyny and white supremacy hurt everyone, regardless of whether or not they oppose them: While Republicans struggle to prop up the illusion of an electoral threat, they are ignoring the actual threat of Covid-19 even as its death toll climbs faster in areas of Michigan that were earlier spared. We at Michigan United believe that it is time to end these deadly shenanigans. Democracies do not function well at gunpoint either in the capitol nor at the homes of public officials. The people have spoken and the voters decided on a new path for the country. This has been confirmed at every level from the city clerk to the Supreme Court of the United States. Any other path that does not lead to a smooth transfer of power can only lead us into very dark places. Rather than continue this futile effort to silence Black voices, lawmakers should instead unite to confront our common enemy, the virus. With no help from Washington on the horizon, Lansing needs to focus now on how they will respond to the current wave of Covid deaths and the many ways the pandemic impacts our state. Rep. Johnson must be reinstated so that the voices of Black women like her can be part of that conversation.