Abby Johnson: Police will racially profile my biracial son; that’s smart

Abby Johnson felt the need to speak up about race.

In a June 25 YouTube video titled “My biracial boy,” the 39-year-old anti-abortion activist used her five-year-old adopted son as a jumping off point for a 15-minute manifesto on the roots of racial unrest in the United States. She made the video private a few hours after publishing it, but said she plans to make it viewable again soon. Other have reposted saved copies of her video.

Wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt printed with lyrics by Vanilla Ice,  Johnson said in the video that her son is now 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.”

 Johnson said that while her four other sons “are probably gonna look like nerdy white guys,” her biracial son will likely be racially profiled by police when he grows up. 

“That doesn’t make me angry,” Johnson said. 

“I realized I’m gonna have to have a different conversation with [my son] than I do with my nerdy white kids,” she said. 
 
With the voices of her children audible in the background, Johnson explained that she knows black men are more likely to be incarcerated for crimes than white men, and because of this, a “smart” police officer will be more careful around her “brown” son than around her white ones. 
 
“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 [child’s name] walking down the road, as opposed to my white nerdy kids … these police officers know in their head … 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,” she said.
 
“I’m a researcher by nature,” Johnson said. 
 
 
Johnson said that, according to her research, high rates of incarceration of black men is caused by black fatherlessness. She then claimed that, according to her research, there is a push to make black fatherlessness culturally acceptable.
 
“There are studies out there that are trying to redefine black fatherhood. They are essentially saying that the seventy percent 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 version of fatherhood is equivalent to a white father being consistently in the home,” she said.
 
“Okay, I don’t want to cuss on here, but that is B.S., and that is racist,” Johnson continued. 
 
“[B]lack 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,” she said.
 
Johnson did not specify which studies she read that attempt to redefine black fatherhood. 
 
Apparently referring to the ongoing racial unrest following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, Johnson said, “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.”
 
“It’s not because of bad cops, [but] because of bad dads,” she said.
 
The video’s settings were changed to “private” a few hours after it was published. 
 
 
 
I called Johnson on Thursday to ask some questions about the video. Here is our conversation:
 

SF: What were you hoping to achieve with this video?

AJ: I wanted to give my opinion and how I’m feeling about this whole situation. Particularly as a woman whose family is affected by this, because we do have a son who is biracial. We do recognize that we do have to have different conversations with our son. It’s not something we shy away from in our house. Race is not something we shy away from in our home. 

 
SF: What study were you referring to, when you said you read that black men aren’t expected to be monogamous or raise their children?
AJ: I’ve seen several of them. There’s quite a few out there that show basically redefining black fatherhood, sort of showing that black fatherhood expectations are different. The expectation is different in black homes than in white homes. That was surprising to me. For me, fatherhood is fatherhood. It was just interesting to see that people were trying to differentiate fatherhood based on race.
 
 I talked about that with some of my black friends, and they were really appalled by that. They were really outraged. I’ve had several discussions with one of my friends in particular about that. We both said this is something that needs to be addressed, by not just the black community but by everyone. 
 
SF: Do you think black people might see your video and start to think differently about fatherhood? 
 
AJ: I don’t know. Right now, tensions are very high, and I think in general, if you’re a white person and you’re not part of the Black Lives Matter movement, which I’m not, then your opinion is not valued. You’re seen as a racist. You’ve done a good job to paint me as that, anyway. I’m sure this article will do the same. 
 
I think if you’re not on this “social justice warrior woke” train of thought, you’re considered a racist. I don’t think that’s fair. I can’t remember a time in my life where I’ve ever discriminated against someone because of their race. I can’t remember a time when ever in my life I have acted on any sort of prejudice.
 
Of course we all have fleeting prejudiced thoughts that we all have to check. That’s something we all have. I just can’t ever recall a time in my life when I’ve actually been racist toward someone. But I think we’re living in times where it is the popular thing to call someone a racist. If your views don’t align with someone, you call them a racist, and if you disagree with what they say, you call them a racist. 
 
I took my video down for a moment. I wanted to talk to my husband. I’m gonna put it back up. My family was getting threats from the supposed Catholic community.
 
SF: Who was threatening you?
 
AJ: People who subscribe to you. It’ll get worse once you put this out. 
 

SF: What kind of threats are they making?

AJ:  People saying they’re gonna call CPS, they’re gonna do everything they can to remove this child from my home. That’s ridiculous. And, this probably wasn’t a Catholic person, but one man messaged and put up a comment that said I didn’t deserve to be a mom, and someone should shoot me and put me out of my misery?

 

SF: Did you screenshot that comment?

 

AJ: I immediately deleted it. I don’t want to look at that. 
 
This is the kind of hate that’s being spread right now. What you’re doing right now will only add fuel to the fire. That’s probably what you want. It’s just a very tense time, and it’s unfortunate people can’t share the things they want to share; they can’t share the things they discuss with their friends, with their family. They can’t talk about things without receiving threats, without being attacked from within the Catholic community. It’s a sad time. 
 
SF: If we could, I’d like to go back to those studies you read that showed that there’s a push to change notions about black fatherhood. You said there was more than one. Do you remember where you saw those studies?
 
AJ: It led me down a rabbit trail. I looked up fatherlessness in general in homes, and that led me to fatherlessness in the black community, not that it was seen as appropriate that they weren’t in the home, but it was saying: In black culture, it’s acceptable for black men to be regularly in and out of the home, and more often than white fathers. 
 
It did talk about black fathers being more likely to do more domestic things with their children, bathing their children, one study talked about that. Feeding their children, things of that nature. But there were other studies showing that fatherhood just looked different in the black community.
 
To me, it simply appeared they were trying really hard to justify the 70%, and to reduce the 70% number that’s been hanging out there for years and years. Instead of trying to get to the root cause of the problem, it seemed like they were trying to justify the number. 
 
SF: Are you aware of statistics that show that black men are more likely to be arrested more often for the same crimes that white people commit, and given harsher sentences when they are charged than white people who are charged with those same crimes?
 
AJ: I just simply looked at the statistics that were out there. Black men are disproportionately incarcerated. 
 
SF: Is it possible that they don’t actually commit more crimes, but that they’re incarcerated more often anyway?
 
AJ: I don’t know. I’d have to look at numbers showing that. I don’t have that data in front of me. I think it’s possible. I think we just have to look at data as it comes. I’m always interested in looking at data. I can say that I am a person who, in general, appreciates data over emotion.
 
SF: If black fatherlessness is at the root of black incarceration rates, what is at the root of black fatherlessness? What do you think is the cause for that?
 
AJ: I’m not sure. I’m not a historian. I don’t have all the answers to everything that ails us in our society. I think there has to be something at the root of that. I think Alveda King has talked about that a little bit. Cultural expectations are different for various reasons. I don’t know all those reasons. I’m not a sociologist. 
 
Why is breastfeeding different in the black community? That goes back to the time of slavery. I know there is something there that causes the stats to be the way they are. [fact check: there are modern, ongoing causes of racial disparities in breastfeeding] Why are serial killers 95% white? I don’t know. [fact check: the racial diversity of serial killers mirrors the general population] I don’t have the answer for that, either. Why are the majority of white collar crimes committed by white men? 
 
SF: If you know police officers are more likely to see your son as more of a threat than your white sons, do you discipline him in different ways from your white sons?
 

AJ: No, that’s a disgusting question.

SF: You said it would be smart for a policeman to treat them differently, so wouldn’t it be smart for you to treat them differently?

 
AJ: That’s a disgusting question. For you to think I would treat my children differently. The fact that you can’t see the difference is disgusting. 
 

SF: Does the pro-life movement have a racism problem?

AJ: I think racism exists, yes.

 
SF: Do you think this video will help?
 
AJ: I didn’t create this video to extinguish racism. I created it to share my thoughts. 
 

SF: You said you took the video down, but you’re going to put it up again. Why is that? Will there be a disclaimer or an explanation when you put it up?

AJ: I don’t need an explanation. 

 
Here are some useful links for further reading. I will continue to add to this list. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa’s narrow pro-life way

Today, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa posted a heartbreaking message on the Facebook page of her pro-life organization, New Wave Feminists.

I’m watching the last 14 years of my life’s work crumble while someone with an anonymous email account tells me they wish my nazi bitch ass would die. Because now it’s their turn.

The alt-right is done decimating me, so the pro-choice left is coming to pick through the scraps.

If you haven’t been following this miserable saga, here’s a recap:

Several years ago, Herndon-De La Rosa founded the secular pro-life, pro-woman group New Wave Feminists, and Kristen Hatten joined her as VP four or five years later. Hatten was initially anti-Trump; but in 2016, she started showing signs of becoming a white nationalist. It was baffling, but undeniable; and so, a few years ago, Herndon-De La Rosa cut ties with her and scrubbed evidence of her from the organization, because, duh, they’re pro-life. You can’t be a white nationalist pro-lifer.

Hatten had been mostly inactive as a pro-lifer after being ousted from NWF, but her alt right views started to surface on the internet; and so on April 5, Herndon-De La Rosa made this statement denouncing her ideas and reiterating that they do not represent the ideals of NWF. She included five of the openly racist images Hatten had recently shared on her page.

Herndon-De La Rosa said:

***Please do not use this post as a reason to attack Kristen and spam her page. I simply needed to state this publicly so that it was on the record that she is not a part of NWF any longer (and hasn’t been since Nov. 2016), since unfortunately there still seems to be some confusion.***

I hate to have to do this publicly, but because many of you started following Kristen Hatten and her page “Chronicles of Radness” through NWF, I feel it’s necessary.

This is not the Kristen I knew. I don’t know what’s happened but she’s changed. As soon as we saw the very beginning of this transformation she was immediately removed from New Wave Feminists.

I’m posting this because many of you still follow her on social media, perhaps without even realizing the vile things she’s sharing, so take a look for yourself and decide if it’s something you support.

That should have been the end of it. Hatten is not especially prominent and didn’t have a large following; but genuine pro-lifers have no tolerance for hatred, racism, violence, antisemitism, etc., so it’s a good idea to make things nice and clear.

Astonishingly, Abby Johnson, one of the most well-known faces of the American pro-life movement, publicly defended Hatten. As is her habit, she deleted her comments after they were challenged, but she said repeatedly that Hatten is not racist. Hatten herself has said repeatedly that she does not mind being called “racist.” She calls herself an “ethno nationalist.”   Johnson repeatedly chided scandalized pro-lifers for talking about Hatten instead of to her; but when several people explained that they had talked to her in private, and that Hatten affirmed her alt right views, Johnson had no response.

All the pro-lifers I knew were almost as horrified by Johnson’s defense of Hatten as they were by Hatten’s views themselves. What a dreadful disservice to the pro-life cause. Johnson tried to make the case that her behavior was charitable — that she operates by refusing to cut ties with people she disagrees with, and this is why she has refused to publicly challenge Hatten’s alt right statements, even though she was warned that refusing to distance herself from Hatten was damaging the pro-life movement which Johnson represents.

Johnson does communicate with people in the pro-choice movement; this is her work. But she very readily cuts ties with those in the pro-life movement who challenge her, and then erases evidence of her own troubling words. She routinely deletes comments that challenge her even in the mildest terms. So she is selective in which opponents she decides to maintain ties with.

Johnson has done good work. This is undeniable. Whether her recent behavior shows sympathy for Hatten or merely an astonishing thinness of skin, I truly do not know.

For practical purposes, it doesn’t matter. The damage was done. The Huffington Post and NARAL spotted the debacle for the PR disaster it is, and are now touting Hatten’s views and Johnson’s defense of her as evidence that the pro-life movement is riddled with alt-right rot:

Hatten’s views present a problem for the anti-abortion movement as it continues to jockey for mainstream acceptance and tries to distance itself from right-wing extremists. Throughout the history of the abortion wars, a great deal of violent energy has been generated at the confluence of anti-abortion activism and white supremacy. The first known murder of an abortion provider was committed by a former Klansman. The kinship isn’t hard to understand: Both are movements of the status quo, dedicated to preserving a white patriarchal order.

This is exactly what I said would happen when I wrote that if I were pro-choice, I’d vote for Trump. When pro-lifers don’t make it crystal clear that some ideas are unacceptable, the world leaps on the chance to make the case that those ideas are central to our cause.

So how, as pro-lifers, should we respond when someone who calls himself a pro-lifer behaves in abhorrent ways?

We have four choices:

1.We can ignore it, for any number of reasons, and hope no one notices.
2. We can be horrified at the damage this person is doing, and openly, strongly denounce the person and heap damnation on her head.
3. We can defend the person because we don’t think it’s right to attack people.
4. Or we can be horrified at the damage this person is doing, and openly, strongly denounce her ideas, and heap damnation on her ideas, and refrain from denouncing the actual person.

Because we are pro-life. Even pro the life of someone on the alt right.

That fourth option is the one Herndon-De La Rosa chose. Did it work?
No, of course not. Because the world is a disgusting place, and hungry for blood. Facts don’t matter; all that matters is that we can tear some flesh. And that’s why she’s currently suffering horrendous abuse from both sides, not only from the alt right but from the far left: Because she chose that narrow path that hates the sin but not the sinner.

I saw some pro-lifers savage Herndon-De La Rosa for not savaging Hatten; for not denouncing her thoroughly enough; for not repeatedly shouting from the rooftops that her former friend is now garbage.

But she chose the narrow road. It didn’t work, but it was the right thing to do. And when the righteous do the right thing, they are made to bleed. Cf Golgatha.

Please pray for everyone involved. If you are pro-life and so reject racism, please denounce racism and other alt right poison everywhere you see it, on the right and on the left. It’s our duty to make things crystal clear. But our goal isto save lives, and that includes the lives of the unborn, the lives of vulnerable minorities, and the lives of people who’ve allowed themselves to be swept into the ugly sewer of the alt right. The most vulnerable come first; but pro life means all lives. It is possible to take that narrow road. It’s not safe, but it is possible.

Hatten and others on the alt right are not past salvation. Their ideas must be publicly savaged. They themselves should be given a chance to repent. They will not repent if their ideas are tolerated; but they will also not repent if they are called human garbage.

Here is the key to knowing if the group you’re spending time with is powered by ideals, or by ideology:  When you stand by your ideals, you will suffer. When you are fighting for an ideology, you will insist that others must suffer. Pro-lifers, which one sounds more pro-life to you? And are you willing to suffer for your ideals, or will you just find a new mob when your old one disappoints you?

***
Image by John Loo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Hugh Hefner sacrificed the human person. Catholics, beware of doing the same.

Hefner is not alone in thinking we may feed as many bodies we like into the oven, as long as we tell ourselves we’re building a fire that benefits all of mankind (and never mind that mankind is made up of individual bodies just like the last one that passed through our hands).

It’s wrong when Hugh Hefner does it, and it’s wrong when anyone does it. If we catch ourselves feeding an individual human into the flames to fuel the fire of our just cause, then we are no longer just.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Photo by Alan Light via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Why abortion workers love those graphic images

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa posted this excellent article from New Wave Feminists on Facebook.  It’s an open letter she wrote to a fellow who insists that it’s essential to use large, graphic photos of aborted babies outside abortion clinics. There ensued a lively discussion about whether or not this practice is (a) appropriate and (b) effective.  The fellow to whom the open letter was addressed boasted that he’s been a pro-life warrior for twenty years, and insisted that it was both right and effective.

O wonder of instantaneous social media:  Abby Johnson responded.  Johnson is the founder of And Then There Were None, which ministers directly to people who want to leave the abortion industry.  She says that, while these graphic images occasionally do change people’s minds, they also often do something else:  they tip the balance toward abortion.

She should know.  She once managed an abortion clinic, and for many years saw protesters march around with their gory posters.  Johnson says (emphasis is mine; and she gave me permission to reprint her comments here):

I watched them be ineffective for many years … from inside the abortion clinic. A perspective that most do not have. I watched for several years as women would literally run away from those holding graphic signs. They would come into my office and ask us why those people were holding them. We used that as an opportunity to point out how crazy the prolifers were and that they would do anything to prevent women from making the choices they felt they needed to. It was an AMAZING way for us to build camaraderie inside our clinic.

Then I saw the signs come down…and I actually saw women changing their minds. They started approaching the people on the sidewalk, asking questions…and then leaving our parking lot and going to the crisis pregnancy centers. Once the signs came down, we started to have volunteer escorts so that we could try to convince the women coming in not to talk to the sidewalk counselors…because they were having such an impact. When the signs were out there, we LOVED IT!!! No one was approaching them. We didn’t need escorts. 

Read that again:  they liked it when the gory pictures were out there.  It made their job easier.  Women literally ran toward abortion.

As I have said many times before, these graphic images are essential for showing ignorant or apathetic people the true horror of abortion . . . as long as the images are used in the right context.  Waving them at women in emotional turmoil is the wrong context.

We are several generations past Roe v. Wade.  We have the luxury of speaking to women who have lived with abortion for many years — women who can tell us what it’s like to make that choice, and who can tell us what would have changed their minds.  We can talk to women who can tell us what doesn’t work.  If our goal is to protect women and babies from abortion, then in God’s name, we must listen to people who know.

——

Note:  I am closing comments because the last time I talked about the proper use of graphic images, I was subjected to months and months of incredible nastiness from people who consider themselves pro-life.  I spend part of every day crying for my lost baby, and I am not up for another round of hearing that I’m not really pro-life.  Please note that I will not respond to any emails on this topic, and anyone who comments about it on other posts, here or at the Register, will be banned.  I have already heard what you have to say, and the rage and condescension only persuades me further that the pro-life movement needs to be purged of misogyny if it will ever gain ground.

Shameful, probably illegal

Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director, pro-life activist, and founder ofAnd Then There Were None, posted this on Facebook:

We just found out today that a former Planned Parenthood employee, who is now working with ATTWN, was fired from her new job today simply because “she used to work at Planned Parenthood.” We guess someone higher up found out about her former employer and didn’t want her there anymore. We are working with one of our attorneys on this situation. She was not given a good explanation except to say that it wasn’t her performance…just her past employment.
People often say to me, “I just don’t understand what makes it so difficult to leave the abortion industry. What’s the big deal? Why don’t they just quit?” This is why. There is a lot of discrimination against former abortion workers…even if they are now prolife. Please pray for this woman, as she is very upset about this and now looking for another job.
If you have any PERSONAL job leads in the St. Louis area, or if you own a business and can help, please email karen@attwn.org.
I suppose it’s possible that the apparent discrimination is based on something more substantial than just spiritual snobbery.  If she had been, for instance, directly responsible for a PP clinic that was closed for health violations, or that has been charged with massive fraud, I could understand her new employer’s distress.
But maybe her former boss really is a pro-lifer who thinks that anyone who has ever been involved with abortion — whether as a mother, a family member, a medical worker, or anyone else — is unclean, untouchable, unforgivable.
If so, shame.  I know this attitude exists within the pro-life community, although I think it’s a small, noisy minority.  Most pro-lifers understand that “more joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance.”  (Luke 15:7)  We need people who understand the industry, who can give us first-hand information about how it operates.  And most of all, we need to be on the side of life, always, and that includes helping the abortion industry’s refugees find a way to make an ethical living.