Just once, I want to see a pro-life leader behaving themselves ethically.
I have been going through all this grief and nonsense for three years now, calling out the celebrities of the pro-life movement when they act like bullies, because I believe they ought to be the good guys. People who believe in personhood from conception to natural death should have reverence for human persons from conception until natural death. No one is perfect at this and I’m particularly bad myself. I call myself a shrew for a reason. But if we’re going to claim the moral high ground, we have to mind our p’s and q’s and we have to constantly self-critique. Our leaders, of which I am not one, had better act like angels. And when they don’t, they had better be called out by a resounding chorus of their fellow pro-lifers until they do.
Instead, we’ve got shameful behavior like Pavone’s anti-Catholic exploitation of corpses and glorifying of child abuse, we’ve got laws being passed that won’t help to limit abortions but will get women killed and persecuted, and if you dare to point to thish sort of thing and ask what’s wrong, people claim you’re actually a Planned Parenthood shill.
I am a Catholic, and the number of abortions I’d be happy to see is zero. That’s why it makes me sick when the pro-life movement is so full of bullies and cranks.
Today, I encountered yet another crank.
Today’s pro-life leader behaving badly is the famous Abby Johnson, a woman who says she had a conversion after witnessing an abortion when she worked at Planned Parenthood. Her story seems to have been pretty thoroughly debunked thanks to some excellent journalism in the Texas Monthly, but many still believe it and for all I know it’s true. And in any case, Johnson is now a pro-life activist; she even had a gory Pure Flix film made about her alleged conversion story.
I wrote about Abby Johnson once before, when she defended Kristen Hatten, an overt white nationalist. Even after Hatten was completely explicit about her position, Johnson publicly said “I don’t believe Kristen is a racist. I have concerns about some things she has posted. But I know her too well to believe that she is racist. And those are things that I can talk about with her privately. I’m not going to outright believe everything that I see on social media. I would rather have conversations about it.”
Johnson later apologized for this statement, saying in part, “I did make a comment giving a friend the benefit of the doubt instead of actually looking into what was said and how hurtful her words had been. Now that I have all the information, I know that I need to make an apology to anyone who has lost trust in me because of that comment. I am deeply sorry. It is never my intention to dismiss the concerns of others and I want everyone to know that this page is a safe place for people of color and anyone else who feels marginalized in our society. My eyes have been opened to current views in our society that I had honestly hoped no longer existed. I have come to believe that the Alt-Right position generally equals racism. I have come to learn that ethnonationalism, when discussed in regards to American society, is code for racism. There is no room for it here in our movement.”
So there. In 2018, Abby Johnson learned that racism still exists and disavowed it, proving for all the world to see that she wasn’t a racist at all. And you know where this is going.
Today, Abby Johnson picked a fight with a black pastor.
As far as I can tell, that’s how the whole smackdown started. She decided she was going to tweet nasty things at a black pastor– a bishop, in fact, not a Catholic bishop but a Protestant one, the Reverend Talbert Swan II of the Church of God in Christ. He is a civil rights activist and president of the Springfield NAACP, and for obvious reasons he’s outspokenly not a republican.
No, a white woman picking a fight with a black man isn’t in itself racist. I’ll get to that.
Swan had tweeted that “Calling a Black POTUS married 25 yrs to 1 wife with 2 children, no mistresses, affairs or scandals, ‘the antichrist’ but a white POTUS married thrice, 5 kids by 3 women, mistresses, affairs & scandals, ‘God‘s anointed,’ proves your religion is white supremacy.“
Abby jumped on the comment thread to school him about who was the one true racist. “Let me tell you about real racism. The fact that our country’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, kills more black children than any other cause of death…and you stay silent about it. Wake up. Trump isn’t your enemy. Your silence is an enemy to your own people.” This, in my opinion, is nonsense. Yes, it’s perfectly legitimate to look at Planned Parenthood’s history in the black community. We ought to have no illusions about that. But that doesn’t make Donald Trump NOT the enemy of Bishop Talbert Swan. Trump is an overt racist and always has been. This is the man who is famous for his condemnation of the innocent Central Park 5, and this very year he refused to apologize for that. She’s simply wrong.
A white person being wrong about politics in conversation with a black person doesn’t automatically make her racist either. But a white woman informing a black civil rights activist about what constitutes the “real racism” and what doesn’t, is absolutely a racist act. A white person talking down to a black person about what ought to really be the black person’s experience of his own history and struggles is patronizing in the extreme, and it’s racist. It’s saying that black people need white people to educate them on what is and isn’t real.
One could believe she was tone deaf at this point instead of being racist on purpose.
The bishop let her have it. He is not a shy man, nor is he one to mince words. “You don’t know a damn thing about “real racism.” Who the hell are you, in all your whiteness, to lecture Black prople [sic] on RACISM??? The caucasity of you to jump in my mentions dripping mayonnaise and parroting right wing talking points as a counter argument to Black oppression.”
Abby didn’t do that. She made a flippant triumphant comment: “But I do love how this white woman has you so riled up!!! Job well done.” Thus proving that she wasn’t trying to have a political discussion, she was trying to make the black man angry and she was pleased with herself for having done so. That’s racist.
Bishop Swan called her a Becky, which is a black person’s slang term for a smug racist white woman, and she called him “Tyrone,” which is racist. She also told him he had a “dirty soul,” which, when one considers how often in history black skin was associated with dirtiness, is awfully racist as well. The “dirty soul” comment might have been ignorance, but there’s no excuse for “Tyrone.” And then she had the gall to claim that Bishop Swan was racist, for getting angry and calling her a pejorative that means “smug racist white woman,” when she had initiated this conversation by being a smug racist white woman. He was telling the truth, not with very good manners, about how she was behaving, and she considers that racist against white people.
Bishop Swan went on from there, with more and more pointed insults about mayonnaise, which I’m not saying was polite, but he was the victim of a racist attack which Abby started and Abby didn’t give up. Abby called him an “Angry black man, and an ignorant one at that.” That’s racist. “Angry black man” is racist.
And then she made a comment which she subsequently deleted, but not soon enough. Here it is:
“You are just a thug. You are no minister. You are a stain on the black community. And you WILL be held to a higher standard when you meet your maker. I pray you repent before that day comes. You don’t “check” anyone. But you will be “checked” by our Lord if you don’t get it right.”
Abby Johnson publicly, calmly and deliberately called a black man who is a cleric and a civil rights activist a “thug” and a “stain.” Those are overtly racist names for a white woman to call a black man in any circumstance whatsoever. She must have realized this because she deleted. And she did it triumphantly in response to Swan insulting her, which he only did because she attacked him with a smug racist comment in the first place.
Abby has said she can’t be racist because she has a black child, but having a black child doesn’t make you not racist. As my readers have pointed out, it just puts that child in more danger if you are. Think of the Hart family. Adopting black children does not and cannot shield a public racist from critique. Quite the contrary.
Abby Johnson is an overt racist. She claimed ignorance in 2018 but it was on full display today in front of millions of people on Twitter.
Racism is a sin, and because of Johnson’s position as a public convert to Catholicism, her racist name-calling in public is not only the sin of racism but also the sin of scandal.
Racism is also grossly inappropriate for someone who styles herself a pro-life leader– ironically enough, for a reason close to the point Abby was trying to make to Bishop Swan. Black women have historically often been the victims of coerced sterilization and abortion, as my guest poster so eloquently reminded us this summer. A woman this racist being an activist running a pro-life charity is a disaster waiting to happen.
Abby Johnson needs to publicly apologize and stand down from her leadership. And those of us who value ethics are the ones who ought to be insisting that she do so. The condemnation needs to come from the pro-life movement. I haven’t seen it coming from there, of course, but that’s what ought to happen.
If we claim the moral high ground, we have to actually be moral. Anything else is hypocrisy.
(image via Pixabay)
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