Meet Anti-Racism Writer, Cholia "CJ" Johnson
And learn about her vision for a healthier, more equitable reality for Black people
I’ve been meeting some great writers as I do my own anti-racism writing, and Cholia “CJ” Johnson is one of them. I came across her thought-provoking articles on Medium, and then followed her over to Twitter where I enjoy her strong perspectives on racism and anti-racism. Please meet CJ.
CJ, what made you become an anti-racism journalist?
In some form or another, I’ve been an anti-racism writer since I was in high school writing poetry and essays for the pure joy of writing. My work always had an anti-racism element to it. I’ve been intrigued by “how” people vehemently hate or culturally embrace and often both, Black people my entire life.
However, as for many of us, the watershed year of 2020 was when I began to become more intentional with writing about anti-racism with my own byline. Specifically, it was the death of Ahmaud Arbery that pushed my spirit to write “something” to shape my anger around his murder. I am haunted by his death. It struck my core immediately. As a life-long runner, his death brought upon anxiety in me. In spiritually sitting with his death, the emotional abuse in seeing Black people die began to take a toll on me. As COVID-19 sledge-hammered the Black community, coupled with Trump’s virulent brand of racism being widely accepted by the media and firing up home-grown white extremists in our backyards, along with performative activism in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, writing about racism as a Black woman who writes for a living, felt like the perfect storm.
Therefore, I took to Medium to begin doing so. To pay the bills I’m a ghostwriter, so Medium felt like the most accessible place I could begin writing and publishing an article or two a month on anti-racism. I’m now slowly branching out of Medium and having pieces commissioned with other media outlets. At the heart of everything I’m publishing is still anti-racism, no matter where my work lands, and I think it will be that way (proudly) forever.
What response have you had?
Somehow, I’ve never been trolled. The response to my work has been positive and supportive. The essay that I’ve gotten the most engagement from came from white people expressing compassion for my plight as a Black woman with anxiety. Now, if they were sincere or are true anti-racist allies, who knows, but that’s been the nature of the response I’ve received so far. Naturally, other Black people always come through with the words of praise as well, and truthfully, that is what’s most nourishing, not what white folks have to say.
In relation to racism, what is your vision of the future?
Intuitively, I don’t feel a significant shift coming in the next 20-30 years, maybe later in my lifetime but no time soon. The racists are emboldened in this political moment in time in ways that are unprecedented. They have social media, the traditional media, a history of racially oppressive policies on their side, and politicians that are no more evolved and progressive than their predecessors, all to their advantage. The people we’ve elected into office as a collective are complacent and not ignited enough to be progressive to bring forth equality for all.
Any changes we do see will come from how we (Black people) make strides to “get free” as much as we can. When I think of getting free, I think about us growing our own food, becoming entrepreneurs in higher numbers that employ other Black people, producing more art and technology that isn’t tied to white-owned venture capitalism, and creating our own affordable healthcare networks with Black doulas/mid-wives and internist/naturopathic doctor co-ops that aren’t tied to an employer. In my eyes, those are viable ways we can truly live a more equitable and healthy reality. Racism isn’t going anywhere, but we can begin to mobilize where it isn’t killing us (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically) as much.
What are your top 3 anti-racism articles you have written?
The Emotional Abuse In Seeing Black People Die - this essay is a top pick for me because it explores what I imagine Ahmaud Arbery’s last moments may have been like while also retrospecting on what Black death has always meant in America and the harm that it causes mentally to Black people.
The Anxiety In Being A Black Runner - this personal essay in ZORA takes a quick deep-dive into the fears I have had as a Black runner living in a rural part of Houston, Texas in the midst of Confederate flag bumper sticker trucks since Ahmaud Arbery’s murder.
A Call for Media to Spotlight the Sex Trafficking of Young Black Women - with young Black women representing over 70% of those sex trafficked in the United States but counts as only a fraction of our overall population, this is a crisis. In this article, I set forth a call-to-action for media to step up coverage of these neglected tragedies occuring in plain sight.
Share one anti-racism article written by someone else that resonated with you.
It was full of humor and hot takes with the edge that only Marley can write. However, more than anything it cut to the heart of an issue that we keep hushed and to the side, which is white people who hate Black people but have sex and relationships with Black people, and sometimes have children with those Black people. It reminds us of the harm that can result of those actions when innocent children are thrust into the middle. I recommend that EVERYONE reads that article.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.