My Response to Abby Johnson’s Shocking Racist Manifesto

My Response to Abby Johnson’s Shocking Racist Manifesto June 25, 2020

I apologize ahead of time for the length of this post; as you’ll see, a good half of it is just quotes from a transcript of a sickening video that was posted publicly to YouTube and Twitter then quickly made private this evening. The video, entitled “My Biracial Boy,”  is a fifteen-minute diatribe by none other than Abby Johnson, the darling of the pro-life movement, a former abortion clinic worker whose conversion story has been questioned by investigative reporters. Johnson now runs “And Then There Were None,” a charity that purports to help abortion clinic workers leave their places of work and get work elsewhere. She is a speaker in great demand in the pro-life movement. And it so happens that she has adopted a biracial son named Jude.

Abby recorded herself talking and posted to her Twitter feed to thousands of followers; I don’t know if she or somebody else made the video private, but you can watch it yourself here. It’s also been posted to Youtube again by somebody else. I hope this video stays available to watch, because we all need to face how horrific this woman’s declarations are. The pro-life movement needs to take responsibility.

I was also given a transcript of the video, which is useful because Abby tends to mutter. I have never heard a woman “um” and “uh” so much through a video she was staging herself. Abby could have turned it off and tried another take when she realized she was not speaking very clearly, but she published it anyway. And in addition, she keeps gesturing at the camera with one wagging finger, giving the whole thing an even more unpleasant schoolmarm feel than I can convey just by quoting it. I’m going to quote large portions of the video here, so that I can dialogue with them.

Abby kicks off the story by talking about her “little brown son” named Jude. She keeps referring to him as her “little brown son” in kind of a singsongy way, and joking about how he “looks like he has a tan,” she loves his brown skin and unique hair and thinks he’s beautiful. Meanwhile she refers to herself not only as a white person but a “very white person” and complains that “I’ve sort of felt like my voice isn’t wanted in this conversation.” Not that that’s a reason for her to keep quiet, of course.

Abby continues, “And as a mom of 5 boys, and one of those boys being biracial, I recognize that I’m gonna have to have a different conversation with Jude than I do with my brown-haired, little Irish, very, very pale-skinned white sons as they grow up. Because right now Jude is an adorable, perpetually tan-looking little brown boy. But one day he’s gonna grow up and he’s going to be a tall, probably sort of large, intimidating-looking maybe, brown man. And my other boys are probably gonna look like nerdy white guys. And so I realize that I’m gonna have to have a different conversation with Jude than I do with my nerdy white kids.

Intimidating-looking? I thought he was beautiful. I thought he was a beautiful tan person with hair his mother loves. What’s intimidating about that? And why doesn’t she expect her pale white Irish sons to be intimidating?  Can’t an Irish person be intimidating? And why can’t a Black man look nerdy?

Is Abby Johnson scared of Black men?

“And you know, that doesn’t make me angry. And many of you would say, “That should make you angry, Abby!” But it doesn’t make me angry. You know why? Because I look at statistics over emotion, okay?”

Abby Johnson boasts elsewhere in this video about nearly completing a doctorate in clinical counseling. I am extremely disturbed that somebody with almost an entire doctorate in clinical counseling can say something like “I look at statistics over emotion, okay?” Don’t go to a therapist who looks at statistics over emotion. Therapists are supposed to be able to look, with a rational eye but not with condemnation, at emotions. People have emotions that they sometimes need the gentle and professional help of a therapist to cope with. No person has a statistic.

“Statistically, I look at our prison population and I see that there is a disproportionately high number of African American males in our prison population for crimes, particularly for violent crimes. So, statistically, when a police officer sees a brown man like my Jude walking down the road, as opposed to my white nerdy kids, my white nerdy men, walking down the road – because of the statistics that he knows in his head, that these police officers know in their head, they’re going to know that statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons. Okay? So the fact that, in his head, he would be more careful around my brown son than my white son, that doesn’t actually make me angry; that makes that police officer smart, because of statistics.
Now, if he treats my brown son violently, more violently than my white son, that makes me angry. But if he’s on more high alert with my brown son, than he is my white son, that doesn’t make me angry. Because that’s just smart. Because of statistics. Okay?”

There’s that comparison between a “brown man” and a “white nerdy man” again. Why can’t a person of color be a nerd? Christian Cooper, the bird watcher who was the victim of the Central Park racist incident back in late May, is a science writer who also writes comics; he’s avid and geeky about his bird watching and he has cute spectacles. Every time I see him, the adjective that comes to mind is “nerdy” and I wish I could go bird watching and talk about science and comic books with him. I’d a thousand times rather go bird watching with Christian Cooper than listen to Abby Johnson. But anyway, Abby thinks only white kids are nerdy; the adjective for a person with black or brown skin is “intimidating maybe.”

And there’s a doctoral student who assumes that a larger number of Black people in prison automatically certainly means that Black people are “more likely to commit violent crimes” as if that’s given from the statistic. That’s not how an educated person should interpret statistics; it’s not good logic.

But anyway, Abby Johnson just said that she’d think a police officer who treated her biracial, adopted son with more suspicion than her white ones was a smart police officer. “Statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons.”

Yes.

A pro-life icon said that.

The rest of the video, the other two-thirds, is more or less in the realm of conspiracy theory. Abby says “I started doing a little digging because I’m a researcher by Nature, and part of my education is to be a researcher. I’m almost done with my doctorate in clinical counseling, and so part of that degree (my Masters is in clinical counseling), so part of that is doing a lot of research, so I’m just sort of a research nerd, so I look at a lot of research.” But she doesn’t provide any citation or notes for her claims whatsoever. She doesn’t say where she got her “statistics” or who made the claims she’s about to make next. I’ve never heard a person who nearly has a doctorate speak so sloppily, and I went to Franciscan University.

Abby quotes that old statistic that “seventy percent of black homes are without fathers,” over and over again, a look of pure revulsion on her face, and notes that that number has been steady for years. She doesn’t cite her source for that statistic. The CDC reports that actually, the majority of Black homes do have fathers– 2.5 million fathers who do live with their children versus 1.7 million who don’t, in fact. And Abby does not at all go into the reasons why a Black family might have trouble keeping both parents under the same roof. She doesn’t talk about the generational poverty caused by redlining and how that can impact the family. She doesn’t talk about the disparity in the number of Black men versus white men in prisons across America, even though she mentioned it earlier. And she certainly doesn’t attribute that disparity to a racist disparity in sentencing for the same crimes, even though that’s well documented.  She seems to take for granted that the reason there are more Black men in prison than white is because Black men actually are just naturally more violent; that’s the implication. And she seems to think that the absence of Black fathers, insofar as it exists in the first place, is not due to any kind of misfortune or deliberate abuse of Black people but because of the selfishness of Black fathers themselves, as if Black men are all out behind the gymnasium smoking pot when they ought to be at home with their children.

Abby goes on to say that she researched this mystery, even though she obviously didn’t research redlining, the prison industrial complex or the history of the unique challenges to the Black family in America throughout history. And if you’d like to read a really good article that touches on some of those issues, my facebook friend Shannon Brinkley Portillo wrote about it in a facebook post which I was honored to publish as a guest post awhile ago. Please do give it a look. It’s one of the most informative pieces I’ve ever read.

Abby has a different notion. She declares “So I continued to research, I continued to look at what was going on, and I found out what happened. There are these activists in the Black community who are trying to redefine what Black fatherhood is. Now, this is what makes me angry. And this is what should make you angry. This is what should make the Black community angry. Okay?”

And no, she never says who’s trying to redefine what Black fatherhood is. It’s just some shadowy “them.”

“There are studies out there that are trying to redefine Black fatherhood. They are essentially saying that the 70% number is a lie. Because Black fatherhood looks different than white fatherhood. That Black fatherhood actually does look like a Black man coming in and out of the home, and not being a consistent presence in the home. And that that version of fatherhood is equivalent to a white father being consistently in the home. Okay, I don’t wanna cuss on here, but that is BS.”

I’m not censoring there. She actually says “I don’t wanna cuss on here, but that is BS.” She’s willing to throw her son under the police car because of his skin color, she makes massive generalizations about other people’s vices without trying to understand the sufferings they face, but she draws the line at saying the s-word. Wholesome.

“Black fathers do not get a pass just because it is culturally different. Just because Black fathers don’t want to be in the home. And culturally, it has been acceptable for them to be with multiple women. First of all: Women, Black women, you deserve better than that. You deserve a man who is going to father a child with you and be with you in the home, with you and your child. Number one. Second of all, your children deserve to have a father who is going to consistently be with your child in the home. Period. ” A person nearly done with her doctorate should know better than to just randomly presume that something is part of another person’s culture. And there’s the future therapist wagging her finger at the camera, lecturing a hypothetical Black woman who might be watching for being a hussy.

“Black children do not deserve a lesser father simply because they are Black. White children do not deserve a more consistent presence in the home just because they are white. That is racism. But that’s what’s happening. That’s what’s happening in “research” institutions right now. They are trying to redefine Black fatherhood, because they don’t like that 70% stat, so instead of setting the bar higher, for Black fathers, they’re simply redefining fatherhood in the Black community. That’s crap. If Black America wants to start writing and talking about something, this is it. This is it.” Still with the wagging finger. Still without any citation.

And she gives “Black America,” who is surely waiting eagerly for her permission, the go-ahead to talk and write as long as it’s about this single topic. Nothing else is permitted. A white woman in a t-shirt with a Vanilla Ice quote on it said so.

“Our prisons are disproportionately filled with Black men because of this 70% statistic. Mark my words. It’s not because of bad cops. It’s because of bad dads. You want to jump on board with something? Jump on board with that.” Never once does this doctoral student consider that maybe, just maybe, Black families are lacking fathers BECAUSE their fathers are imprisoned. She just presumes that all Black men in prisons are messed up because of “bad dads” that weren’t there for them and so forth.  Bad black men create more bad black men; it’s a closed cycle, according to Abby Johnson. Nobody’s fault but theirs.

 “70% of these dads are walking out on their babies. I’m not making an excuse for bad cops, there are bad cops out there. But not 70% of them. You wanna end what’s happening in these Black communities? Don’t try to redefine Black fatherhood. That’s not what’s gonna fix this. Redefining Black fatherhood will not fix what’s happening right now. Defining it in the first place is what will fix this. Getting fathers back in the homes is what’s going to fix this. Redefining the Black culture in general, empowering women to make the decision that they deserve better than to be with a man who’s going to run around on her, and that that be culturally acceptable, that changes the culture.
Yeah, we’ve got big issues right now in the Black community, but at the root of it, the root is not with bad cops. The root starts in the home. The root is at the family. If you wanna solve this madness that’s going on right here, right now in our society, that is where you start, because what’s happening right now with police, and criminals, and rioting, and violence – that is just a symptom of what has been going on for a long time in the homes and the communities of our Black families.”

All of the horror and violence being committed in Black communities, all of this violence we’ve seen the past month, all of the violence we ought to have seen for years and years. George Floyd suffocated by a police officer kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes. Breonna Taylor shot to death in her bed. Philando Castile murdered for reaching for his wallet. Tamir Rice shot to death for playing with a toy. All of this actually because Black fathers are bad people, according to Abby’s rant.

I wonder how far back she thinks this problem goes. I wonder if she thinks that the false accusation and electrocution of George Stinney, and the false accusation and horrific murder of Emmet Till were due to their bad fathers as well.

This woman is raising a biracial child, a child she named after the patron saint of hopeless causes no less, she confesses that his skin is “intimidating maybe,” and this is what she thinks of Black people.

I really don’t know what more there is to say. I was told that Abby Johnson was not racist but merely mistaken when she publicly defended the white nationalist Kristen Hatten. I was told we should blame the Black pro-life and civil rights leader Bishop Talbert Swan for not being polite enough to her, when Abby subjected him to a public racist attack for no reason. I was pooh-poohed when she libeled my friend, a Filipino monk.

Now she’s claiming that her own brown-skinned son is “intimidating maybe,” not like her “nerdy” white ones, and that she’d support a policeman who racially profiled him because he’s more likely to commit a violent crime. And she’s wagging her finger at Black women because of a statistic and a conspiracy for which she provides no evidence.

Let’s go back to my friend Shannon’s post for a moment, the one I told you about earlier. Shannon is very blunt about how the history of Black women in America is deeply impacted by eugenics. Listen to what she has to say: “Across many groups, the focus is on abortion rights– which are important, I know. But what I have seen is black women mention that isn’t important in our day-to-day reality, and be shouted down and called stupid, short sighted. Well, in American history, the right to abortion HASN’T been a huge problem for black women, our problem has been the opposite, right to want, have, and mother our children. Since the end of slavery, when Master no longer profited from a black woman’s ability to be fruitful and multiply, forced sterilization of black women has been common. Of poor black women, petty criminals, single mothers. I’ve seen a lot recently about a raped 11 year old being denied a abortion. It mirrors in my mind a black 11 year old, raped and pregnant who at her c-section was purposefully sterilized against her will and knowledge by a white doctor who not knowing the full story assumed she was promiscuous, unable to control herself, and sterilization was best for her and baby. She didn’t even know until many years later when, as a happily married professional, she visited her doctor to find out why she and her husband couldn’t conceive. This still to this day happens to women in prison, mostly black women in prison. I’ve never seen a white feminist speak on forced sterilization of black women. In fact, when you bring it up, usually they’ll say something about earth overpopulation and adoption being an option.”

Black women are victims of coerced abortion and eugenic sterilization at a shocking rate to this day.

This is why it’s so dangerous and such a huge scandal that someone so prominent in the pro-life movement is such an overt, nauseatingly unabashed racist.

Black lives matter. Unborn Black lives matter too. Female and male lives of all ages and the lives of people in prison matter. George Floyd’s life, and the lives of all lynched Black people, matter. Little Jude, whose brown skin both charms and intimidates his mother, matters.

Abby Johnson is not the face the pro-life movement needs.

She needs to be completely shut down.

Image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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