My Case

Author Janetra Johnson talks about Jim Crow policy in the National Guard


 

In July 2016, I started promoting my eBook, “Still Waiting,” on Dream Chasers Radio host, Yaya Diamond. Below is a written transcript of the interview. I hope you like it and please comment and subscribe to my blog.

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Yaya: … I want to thank all of the people that I’ve interviewed and as a matter of fact, I have a person here today. She says she’s kind of nervous, but I’m sure she’s gonna be just fine because it’s just me and her on the phone right now. That’s it. That is it. Just me and her. We’re gonna play it like that. It’s on the phone. Janeta Johnson, welcome to the show!

Janetra: Hi! Nice to meet you. My name is Janetra.

Yaya: Janetra!. Child, I knew I was getting it wrong. I knew it. Janetra. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I need to hide under rock and just not come out for a little while. Janetra, thank you so much for being on the show. Oh my gosh! I feel so bad! I wanted to get into what you’ve done in your life. You have three children, but yet you have a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s in pre-law. Girl, how did you do it?

Janetra: Just by staying focused. You know, early in my life I started college very early, so right after high school, that same summer. Instead of taking a break I just went straight to college and just been there for almost ten years straight and just like basically on my grind, getting my degree and working. And that’s how I did it. That’s how I did it.

Yaya: Oh my gosh! Girl, you got me rolling on the floor. Ten years!

Janetra: I know, I know. Yeah, yeah. I did it and I had plans of getting my doctorate’s degree, but things changed for me.

Yaya: Well, shoot. Ten years is long enough for me. I tell you that much. I have three more years before I get my doctorate’s degree. I’m telling you. A dissertation doesn’t sound good right now.

Janetra: I hear you.

Yaya: So exactly what have you done after that? I mean, three kids, a Master’s degree in Business Administration, a Bachelor’s in pre-law. Girl, I don’t see how you did it with three kids. I just don’t. I mean, focus?

Janetra: Yeah it is. It’s being focused. I love reading and that’s why I wrote a book is because I love reading. I was reading early in life and it was just quite natural for me to just continue reading through college and then you know, after college, you know, I’m now writing a book. Well, I have written a book and so it’s sort of natural to me to do this.

Yaya: [unclear 6:06] “Still Waiting…” is the name of your book and you know, I don’t see. It is amazing because I’m gonna tell you the truth. I sit down to read a book and I’m a writer. I write songs, I sing. I’d rather listen to a book than read it because me sitting to read is like taking me and chaining me down, telling me “you can’t move”. I am a busy person. I just, I can’t see myself sitting down to read a book.

Janetra: Well you know what? That’s what I like. I like being able to sit still and read a book and flip through them and looking at the font. So if you read my book, you’ll see that you could quite easily see how easy it was for me to write the book and to talk about you know my Commander in Chief, George W. Bush and performance schedule that I talk about before I talk about my schedule. It’s because the book itself, because of my ability at such a young age to look at the front of a book, the back of a book, to look at the font, it was quite easy for me when I started to file my lawsuit against the California National Guard to look at documents, read them very fast and just summarize what it is I need to do before going into litigation.

Yaya: Wait, wait, wait. Hold on a second. Stop, stop. Hold on a second. See most people don’t understand, but people love scandals. Give us a synopsis of the book.

Janetra: Well, to me it’s a lot of different things. It’s my life, but the synopsis is that it’s my Federal lawsuit. It started in 2009 and ended in 2015. I don’t talk about everything, but I do talk about how I thought that the California National Guard was the job for me. I thought that it was the career for me. It turned out that the agency was under financial crisis when I had joined. All of this I didn’t know until I started to read. All of it and so in my book, you will see what I saw when I was reading about the California National Guard before I filed my law suit. I represented myself through my journey, all the way to the United States Supreme Court. I filed all of my own briefs. I did all of my own research and I did that because I at an early age I loved books. One of my favorite movies was “All of the President’s Men”. That involved Watergate. I love that movie! So when I was reading the California National Guard, let’s just say the National Guard policies, it was just surreal because it said so much tht answered all of my questions. Like I had claimed that I was discriminated against from the time I started the National Guard in 1996 until the time that I left and for a very long time, I didn’t know why. I just did not know why I felt discriminated, but when I started to read their policy, I understood why. Because that’s how they do business.

Yaya: It’s so sad because as a person, as a part of the human race, every life is supposed to be treated the same. They’re supposed to be treated equally. There’s so many things going on. There’s just a lot of stuff going on. I’m just gonna put it that way, but to go through it in this day and age, it didn’t surprise you that something maybe you thought would not happen and then when you got there and it started happening, it kind of stung a little bit.

Janetra: Oh absolutely! It was devastating! Very, very devastating. You’ve got to think back. At that time I had two children and I had been through a lot in the service and because of my experience of reading at an early age, I read a lot of books by African Americans. My favorite book was the autobiography of Malcolm X. I love that and because of reading his book, I saw a lot of things and because of the legal cases that I’ve read that African Americans have filed and what they said in those cases, it just, it was just devastating to discover a policy that led all the way up to the Department of Defense and to say to yourself you know here I am an African American mother with children and I don’t know what to do when I’m facing Jim Crow. That was the devastating part, but I just opened the door. I opened the courtroom door and I filed my discrimination claim and it was like a six year journey all the way to the United States Supreme Court. They pretty much said that you know, the military has sovreign immunity and I don’t disagree with that, but I disagree with the fact that they did not investigate the discrimination that I allege and that because of the discrimination I experienced, I lost a lot. I lost a whole lot financially because the discrimination that I alleged is nothing new, especially for those of us who know our history. We know that African Americans for a long time had to fight for equal pay in the military. So that’s really nothing new, but what’s surprising to me is that when I brought it up, it just seemed to be more about correcting their mistakes and not saying “hey, you know there could potentially be a group of people, not just this one woman who has filed this complaint. Perhaps there’s more African American soldiers who have experienced discrimination that we need to look at” and I think that not only the discrimination that I had gone through was devastating, but to get into the Federal court system and have them deny what I experienced and then try to cover it up. That was the most hurtful part. So my book “Still Waiting…” basically says I’m not here to make drama or anything, but I’ve been waiting for like eight years on my Veteran’s disability benefits and I haven’t got any answers and to me, it’s still like slavery all over again where I feel as though I worked. I worked a lot. As I said to you earlier, I’ve been reading and writing and educating myself at an early age. I’ve been working since, oh gosh, I can’t remember. I know how to work, but I felt as though I joined the military and they still don’t want to give me or at least African Americans the benefit of the doubt, that we’re smart as well, that we’re talented as well. It was devastating.

Yaya: That’s sad. You know, I’m trying not to be political about it. It’s kind of hard to stay away and look in and kind of trying to be on both ends of the spectrum, but I don’t see two ends of the spectrum. That’s the problem. That’s just one side and I’m looking at it going okay, it’s a really sad situation because most people say our caucasians have been killed more than police brutality cases than blacks, but look at the predominant factor here. There are more whites in the United States than there are blacks. If you take the ratio of it all, we are the highest killed if the ratio be applied to it because we are less, we have a less of a population than white. So you’re looking at our statistics and you’re going there are more whites, but there are more whites out there. If you take the black statistics, we are more likely one in four people are black are more likely to get shot. No, it was 35% more likely to get shot than white or any other color out there. It’s hard when you have to teach your child comply, comply, comply and then when you do comply, still get run over. People don’t understand that the color comes with a warning label on it. You’re black. Bang, bang, bang.

Janetra: I totally agree with you because here’s the thing. Even though I read, you know, my black history books and I’m fairly well educated a little bit about black studies, I felt as though, many years ago, I as they say, I put down my fist. You know, I was one of the ones who just loved to fight on the streets, but then I wised up and I thought “you know what? I can fight with words. I can become educated and fight with words”. But then I got older and I realized that it doesn’t matter if you’re educated or not. At least in my situation. I was doing nothing wrong, but joined an agency where discrimination is how they do business and I lost. It has nothing to do with you know, my skill or anything and that was what was devastating to me. It had nothing, nothing at all to do with my talent. It was everything, my discrimination had to do with my race and it hurts when you know, you think of the Black Lives Matter and they’re out on the streets and they’re fighting, you want to say, at least for myself, you know, I’ve been there and I’ve put down my fist and I’ve picked up a book and I began to read and to learn things in life, but I still ran into Jim Crow and it’s the 21st century. I ran into him and no one told me that even if you did educate yourself, he’s still there, but I did write about that in my book.

Yaya: It is a very eye opening thing to see this still today in this day and age going on. And to see the denial of it as well. Oh, well that’s just not true! Well, are you black? It’s something like, okay, you say it’s not true because you’re living on your side of the fence. Come over here. Come over here and see how true or how false it is. You know, but again, again, it is still a sad situation all together, all around. It’s still happening in this day and age and it’s unfathomable. I mean, I don’t comprehend it most of the time, but it is. To have it happen to you and such a skill and in a situation where you would think there is equality. That there is somewhat of an equality there because it is, what is it? How would I say it? It’s a governmental position. You would think that it would be even better for you because you’re there to protect and serve. You’re there to be a part of a unit.

Janetra: Wht I found was interesting was that I don’t really want to get into politics and I’m gonna try not to, but  I thought that you know, when I filed my Federal law suit, I honestly thought that the Secretary of the Air Force, who I named a defendant would say “Miss Johnson, you were right. You have experienced discrimination and this is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna help you resolve this issue by assisting you in getting your Veteran’s benefits”. That’s not what it was. What happened was I had did all of my research up front, had all of my documents and things like that. When I filed my law suit, the first thing that happened was a phone call from the Department of Justice, which represents them, asking for an extension of time and I knew then that for me, what do you need an extension for time? It goes back to slavery. You know, do you need more time really to do what? But okay, you know, this is a legal case and so the judge granted them more time, but what they did in that time was come back with an argument that we have sovereign immunity and to make matters worse, they took the policies or at least the legal argument that I had to substantiate my argument that discrimination did exist, because I had the policy that I did read and I laid them on the record. They changed them. They changed all of the policies and that’s what hurts the most is that on one end, you deny that I’ve ever experienced discrimination and then you go and change them, change the policy, without even saying “okay Miss Johnson, we know that you experienced discrimination. Here are your Veteran’s benefits. We know that the type of discrimination that you’re claiming has to do with your finances. It’s discrimination compensation. So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna make sure you and your family are set from here on out”. To me, it was like they ran and they ran in broad daylight. In the court room. That’s what I felt.

Yaya: That’s just a mess.

Janetra: It is! Sometimes I look back and I think I’m not trying to start an argument or anything, but it really does go back to equality. Like you know, I’m not claiming discrimination where it’s they said this and I said that and you know my feelings are hurt. That’s not what I said. I’m talking about discrimination and compensation. I’m saying that whites were paid differently than African Americans. I’m saying that I’m an educated woman and I feel as though I’ve been discriminated against compensation and here is the policy to substantiate my claim and all they could do was change the policy. That’s it and so I’m like so I guess that’s how they do business. Change the policy, change the law and don’t even provide any form of resolution. Nothing.

Yaya: That’s  mess!

Janetra: It is. It’s just sad.

Yaya: Yeah, it’s very sad. You know, it is just sad.

Janetra: Yeah, it is, but like they say, you turn lemons into lemonade and I’ve done that and so I’ve written my book “Still Waiting…”, which is my memoir. In the back of the book, I have the documentary evidence that I submitted to the court so that people can read and also they can go to, I guess you can go into the Federal court system and pull up my case and see the documents there as well. And so the book is $1.99, it’s a Kindle book. So it’s an eBook on Amazon. You can read the book. It’s not intended, excuse me. It’s not a book that’s gonna take you all day to read. You can read it in one night and get the information and get what it is that I’m saying and so I plan to write more books, but I just want to see how this one goes so that I know how to you know, know what to write in my next book.

Yaya: Right, right and you know what? That’s amazing what you’re doing and you’re stepping out and that’s a wonderful thing. You know, with all the things that are going on, what do you suggest to people who actually have that passion and they want to write about something so prevalent and so important these days. What would be advice for them from you?

Janetra: It would be one of the things that if I had to give anybody I guess any advice, it would be to be honest in your writing and try to establish like literary merit. Like even though I’ve gone through all of this, I’m trying to now establish myself as an author. I’m trying to put those things behind me and just focus on moving forward and being an author. So I would tell, if I had to give any advice, it would be to take the position as an author very seriously.

Yaya: And I would too. I want to thank you so much for being on the show Janetra. I did it, I did it.

Janetra: Yes you did. Thank you! Thank you.

Yaya: See it’s not so bad.

Janetra: No it wasn’t. You know if I have to say this, this is the type of interview that I like. The George Bush scandal is, oh my gosh, it’s an animal and that’s not the focus of my book even though it’s mainly what I’m talking about. The purpose is for me to say that I’m still waiting on my benefits.

Yaya: Definitely. And where can people reach you?

Janetra: You can go to my website, Civil1.org. It’s civil, c-i-v-i-l, the number one.org.

Yaya: Awesome and they can reach you and purchase your book and everything there.

Janetra: Oh yes.

Yaya: Again, thanks so much for doing what you do, for writing for ten years, for your service. Goodness gracious girl! I tell you, you do it. You did it. You’re doing it. You keep going!

Janetra: Thank you!

Yaya: You keep in touch with us, alright.

Janetra: Oh absolutely.

Yaya: It’s been a pleasure and see, I told you it would go by real smooth. You did a wonderful job.

Janetra: Oh thank you and I do look forward to coming back.

Yaya: Thank you so much Janetra. I hope that you get all that you plan and you deserve because I’m telling you for your service and for the things that you’ve done, everyone deserves what’s coming to them and I truly believe that what goes around comes around. So don’t worry about it. It will all be okay.

Janetra: Alrighty, thank you.

Yaya: Alright, thanks.

Janetra: I’ll talk to you soon.

Yaya: Alright. Bye bye.

Janetra: Bye.

Yaya: It’s still happening. It’s still happening, my gosh. I mean in this day and age, people still have to worry about certain things tht they really shouldn’t have to worry about. I have plenty of friends who are of all colors, all nationalities that agree with me that this should not be happening in this day and age, but there’s a lady out there that I really, really like and she is a racism teacher and I’m sure you’ve seen her online. You know, she tells it like it is. She said would anyone who is not black want to be black for a day or even for a week or for your lifetime? Would you want to trade with me? You know, that says a lot because a lot of people, in the videos, they don’t even answer. She’s been on CNN. She’s been on Fox News. She’s been on a lot of things and she tells people “look, the seriousness of the whole thing is that would you want to trade places with a black person? Would you want to walk in their shoes?” No. You would not. That’s fact. So if you would not, then you acknowledge that there’s a problem. Even though you may not be the problem, even though you may have plenty of black friends, you may even be married to a black person and you’re not creating a problem. I’m not accusing anybody of creating a problem, but what I am saying is that the problem still exists today and we have to put our heads together to solve this very big issue because there have been travel alerts issued for different countries not to come to the United States because of our racist issue, our racism problem. I mean, you know, I mean, in different pockets, yes. You know if you’re black you can’t go to this neighborhood. If you know you’re black or white, you know you can’t go to any neighborhoods. You not safe at all, no matter what color you are. So I mean, there is an issue. The thing is, how do we solve it? I believe that talk is cheap. Actions really do speak louder than words in this instance and the actions are where’s our Martin Luther King, Jr. of this age? We need him. So you know what? It may be a death sentence for him because it was a death sentence for Martin Luther King, Jr. It may be a death sentence for them. Maybe they don’t want to step up because they’re afraid they’ll die and guess what? They just might. No one wants to let peace be done. It’s just crazy. I just pray for everybody. I pray for it all. It’s just sad and there is, truly thinking, there is not one person in this world that doesn’t have something or another thing in their life, in their blood system or whatever. You know, the whole thing is, to be happyk, to do what you love to do, to dream big and to go after your dreams and hopefully within that, we can make a change starting with us first and that’s where it’s gonna begin.

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