Elder James Johnson: “Belly Full”

By Beverly Gadson-Birch 

Last week, I watched a disturbing video of a black man accused of shoplifting being severely beaten by the Middle Eastern shop owner. The man was struck with a sword, punched and kicked numerous times. One of the shop owners in the video could be seen flashing a gun.

The shop owner became Judge, Jury and Executioner on that day. Why weren’t the police called and “reasonable restraint” exercised until they arrived? I certainly don’t condone shoplifting, if that in fact was the case, and neither do I support Middle Easterners setting up shop in poor neighborhoods and extorting them.

Some of these shop owners that accuse blacks of illicit activities in their stores are also guilty of engaging in illicit activities such as food stamp fraud. They also grossly “overcharge” for their goods. Poor folks are always the victims in their own neighborhoods. The issue of many of these “rip off” stores in the Black community should have been addressed a long time ago. There was a time when Blacks operated “Mom and Pop” stores. Many of the “Mom and Pop” storefronts fell victim to larger grocery chains, gentrification and Middle Easterners setting up shop.

Elder James Johnson, State Coordinator of National Action Network, has been a staunch advocate for justice. Things are not always as they seem or even spoken. Elder Johnson is in no way a “bigot” as misconstrued by his comments referring to Middle Easterners as “Arabs and foreigners”. Johnson fights for the downtrodden and the least among us, regardless of race, creed or color. I know because I have seen him in action. I have fought alongside him on issues.

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you just lose it. You get sick and tired of being sick and tired. My granny referred to “fed up” as “my belly full”. Outraged by the incident, I believe Elder Johnson had his “belly full” of senseless beatings and mistreatment of the poor. Every day, it’s the same ole, same ole. I am telling you if you haven’t walked in a Black man, Black woman or Civil Rights advocate’s shoes, you will never know what a “belly full” really is.

The poor and disenfranchised are constantly faced with hurdles placed in front of them by those that deem themselves better off and above reproach. Let’s not be so quick to judge the misspoken or misinterpreted words of Elder Johnson regarding the Middle Easterners. It’s easy to pick apart someone’s intent if you are sitting on the sideline. The view is a whole lot different when you are in the game. Quick decisions are often made under pressure and in the heat of the moment. The senseless beating of the accused shoplifter was just another inside view of what takes place on a daily basis in poor communities.

How many of Middle Easterners’ stores do you see in affluent White neighborhoods? None! Zero! None! What about rip off payday lenders? None! Zero!

Let’s not be so swift to condemn those that put their lives on the line everyday fighting for justice. Now, I pride myself on being cool, calm and collective but the video of the beating sure had my blood boiling. It also reminded me that I have had a “belly full” of folks who take advantage of poor folks. Are y’all listening!

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