As protests against American racism approach a fifth month, Day Two of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night will include a white conservative activist who has racially profiled her own adopted son.
Abby Johnson, a featured 2020 convention speaker, said in a YouTube video posted in June that police would be justified in assuming that when her biracial school-age son is a grown-up, he could be more violent than a white man.
“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,” she said, commenting on the protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. “Statistically when a police officer sees a brown man, like my Jude walking down the road, as opposed to my white nerdy kids … because of the statistics that he knows in his head, that these police officers know in their head, they are going to know that statistically my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons.”
The video message by the prominent anti-abortion activist and Texas mother of eight was first flagged by the Daily Caller News Foundation in June. Vice.com reposted the footage on its site Tuesday morning, and it remains available on Johnson’s YouTube page.
Johnson’s prerecorded 5-minute Republican convention speech is scheduled to air Tuesday night, on the second night of the Republican Party’s national convention to nominate President Donald Trump for re-election.
The first night of the convention featured testimonials from four of Trump’s Black supporters, who attempted to recast the image of a president who has praised white supremacists and lashed out at protesters against racial injustice. But among the speakers heralded for their good deeds was a white St. Louis couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters as they walked past their home. They echoed Trump’s recent remarks, where he called racially inclusive fair-housing policies an “invasion” into the American suburbs.
Abby Johnson’s husband, Doug Johnson, has blogged on dougontap.com about the couple adopting a newborn they would name Jude, after “the Patron Saint of hopeless cases.”
The Texas father wrote lovingly in 2016 of the baby the couple would take in from a deaf mother facing difficult circumstances at home. Johnson described how he cried when he learned of Jude’s birth and his sadness about not being at the hospital to cut the umbilical cord. “Because of the circumstances, challenges and struggles of his birth mother, his situation seemed pretty hopeless at times,” Johnson wrote in his blog. “The name fits him perfectly.”
In her YouTube video earlier this summer, Abby Johnson complained that her conservative voice isn’t “wanted” in discussions about “racial issues.” But, she continued, she knows that she’ll have to have “different conversations” about policing with Jude
, than with her “brown-haired little Irish, very, very pale-skinned, white sons, as they grow up.”
“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,” she said of her elementary school-aged son.
Johnson said although it doesn’t make her angry that police would be on “high alert” with Jude, she said she would be angry if one of them treated her son “more violently.”
The Vice story has prompted thousands of comments on social media, including a slew from critics.
“In addition to everything else, I really need people to understand that crime statistics tell you nothing about the propensity for criminality among a given population,” tweeted New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie.
“White parents adopt biracial kid, while still buying into the lie of inherent Black criminality. This is child abuse,” tweeted Soraya McDonald, a writer for the news site The Undefeated, which reports on race, sports and culture.
According to the Institute for Family Studies, the percentage of adopted kindergartners who were a different race than their white adoptive mother grew from 34% to 51% from 1999 to 2011.
Johnson has told news outlets this week that she worked on her convention speech with Trump’s speechwriters
, and that her “graphic” speech aims to be “the most provocative, impassioned, memorable pro-life 5-minute speech ever made.”
Studies suggest her Jude would be better off without accepting stereotypical views of Black male criminality. A research survey reviewed by the Donaldson Adoption Institute, a now-closed research and advocacy group, found that the ability to cope with discrimination would be an essential survival skill for non-white children adopted by white parents. The institute identified education about common racial stereotypes as one tool to promote healthy self-assessments.
“When workers choose permanent families for children, and when they seek to prepare and support them in addressing the children’s needs, race must be one consideration – such as promoting connection of the child to adults and children from their own racial/ethnic group, developing a positive racial/ethnic identity, and learning to deal with discrimination they may experience,” reads the May 2008 report, one of the most comprehensive available. “Attention to the well-being of African American children in the child welfare system needs to become a top priority for the future development of laws, policies, practice, and research.”