Predator or scapegoat?
College Wrestler Becomes “HIV Criminal” After Infecting White Students
An HIV-positive college wrestling star is currently awaiting trial in Missouri after allegedly knowingly infecting a classmate. Sounds simple enough, but the story is entangled in a slew of confusion, lack of personal responsibility, race politics, and possible scapegoating of a black college athlete with documented learning/reading disabilities in a town with a 91% white population.
The story all began when a white male student noticed a profile on a gay hookup app for a black user named “Tiger Mandingo.” Via Buzzfeed:
The student at Lindenwood University in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles quickly recognized that in real life, Tiger Mandingo was also a student at his school: Michael Johnson, a recent transfer student on Lindenwood’s wrestling team. They hooked up later that month in Johnson’s dorm room, where, the student said, Johnson told him he was “clean.” He gave Johnson a bl*w j*b.
Johnson invited him to go out sometime, but the student got busy and “didn’t have time for that.” They didn’t hook up again until early October.
This time, they had an*l sex without a condom. “I let him c*me in me,” the student said. He wanted bareback sex, he said, because Johnson was “huge,” “only my third black guy,” and — as he said Johnson told him yet again — “clean.”
The student said he has barebacked with multiple “friends and ex-boyfriends,” situations in which “we trusted each other. I mean, I don’t just let anybody do it.” Yet he also said he had bareback sex “with people I barely knew.” In those cases, he said, “I knew they were clean,” sometimes just “by looking at them.”
The student’s nonchalance changed when he described a call he got from Johnson a few days after their second hookup: “He calls me and he said, ‘I found out I have a disease.’ And I asked, ‘Is there a cure?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’ And I was like, ‘Are you f*cking kidding me?’ I got pissed. I had asked him several times, and he’d said he was clean, and I trusted him! And I got mad at him, and then he got mad at me for getting mad, and then he said, ‘I gotta go.’”
He wanted to “go bareback” with someone he barely knew (something he seems to do on a REGULAR basis) due to his own fascination with Johnson’s size and race…despite being well aware of the dangers of unprotected sex with ANY partner. Could you say he put his own health at risk just to satisfy his obvious fetish?
The story only gets stickier from here:
That same day, Oct. 10, Johnson was pulled out of his class and led away in handcuffs by the St. Charles police. He was later charged with one count of “recklessly infecting another with HIV” and four counts of “attempting to recklessly infect another with HIV,” felonies in the state of Missouri.
Lindenwood University urged anyone who’d had “intimate contact” with Johnson to get tested for HIV, and many did. The student Johnson had sex with went to St. Louis Effort for AIDS for an HIV test, which came back negative, as did subsequent tests. He didn’t press charges himself. Still, he said, “he infected someone with HIV. Without medication, that person could get AIDS, so he’s slowly killing someone. It’s a form of murder, in a sense. I hate to say it, since he’s a nice guy.”
With few exceptions, judgments around the internet concurred: Johnson was a predatory “monster” who was intentionally “spreading HIV/AIDS.” A typical comment on Instagram proclaimed him the “Worst type of homosexual: a strong one with HIV.” Overtly racist blogs, like Chimpmania.com, labeled him an “HIV Positive Buck.”
The only question more important than how Johnson became both a media flashpoint and morality tale is why. The nasty racial tone the story took is not surprising, given Johnson’s charged nickname, his white sex partners, and research in Tennessee that shows the law punishes black men more often (and more severely) for HIV-related sex crimes than it does white men…
There’s a racial dynamic to who is prosecuted for exposing others to the virus and how they are sentenced, research shows. A study published in the journal AIDS and Behavior, looked at 10 years of HIV prosecutions in Nashville. It found that “Persons who were black were more likely to be convicted of criminal HIV exposure related to a sexual interaction than persons who were white,” and that “individuals who were black received significantly longer sentences than those who were white.”
How could he get arrested and charged the same day before any positive test results came back?
Is this a case of a black college athlete sought after for intercourse particularly for his race and body, then treated like a predator based on that same race and body once the outcomes aren’t what his white sexual partners expect? They can’t behave as though he is the ONLY man in town with HIV, especially with the number of near-anonymous, unprotected sexual encounters these young men are admitting to. After all, he had to catch the disease from somewhere himself…
More importantly, there is some question as to whether Johnson was actually aware of, or ever even withholding his status from partners during the time of the sexual encounters in question.
However, the state of Missouri has “confidential” state documents noting that Johnson was notified of and acknowledged his status as of early last year. The major issue with this being the fact that he is well-known to have intense reading comprehension issues stemming from dyslexia…
On Jan. 7, 2013, Johnson signed a form from the state of Missouri, acknowledging that he had been diagnosed with HIV. From this date forward, any time he had sex with someone without disclosing his HIV status, he would have been committing a felony.
But his mother, Tracy Johnson, said, “No one told him, ‘Before you sign this legal document, you need to get counsel. This is a legal document, and if you go against this legal document, you can be incarcerated,’ and be given years in the penitentiary if he is dishonest about his medical situation.”
Johnson’s defense could well come down to a case of “he said, he said,” as his mother put it, with “Tiger Mandingo” on trial against a bunch of white college students as to whether he said he was positive before they had sex. Johnson’s attorney wouldn’t comment on this, but his mother said he told her, “‘Mama, I told people I was HIV [positive] … and they wanted me anyway, because of who I am.’ So in a way he feels kind of used.”
It’s not a promising position for a semi-literate, poor defendant represented by a public defender. Johnson’s defense will be all the harder because, while the state has a signed statement from him, he doesn’t have signed statements from any of his sex partners saying they knew he was HIV positive.
Don’t get us wrong here…it is absolutely 100% wrong for anyone of any race, gender, or sexual orientation to engage in unprotected intercourse with anyone else while knowingly carrying an infection and not notifying the other person. HOWEVER it isn’t completely clear that this is what Johnson did. It seems, judging from the original man’s own story, that the moment Johnson knew something was wrong, he let his partner(s) know…
Bear in mind, all his partners consented to unprotected sex without having any medical guarantee that Johnson was disease-free. Should he really have been taken away in handcuffs and treated like an HIV-spreading monster? Or is this racially-motivated scapegoating as the article suggests?