MANN: A Lesson from Abby Johnson’s Video

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Saturday, June 27, 2020


Darling of the Pro-Life movement Abby Johnson is the target of an online frenzy for a video she released detailing the current state of American policing. The backlash is not unwarranted.

In it, she expresses her concerns, or lack thereof, for her biracial son’s future experience with police. Though the video itself is only 15 minutes long, Abby makes each minute feel like an hour as she drags you through the shipwreck that is her awful take. 

At best Abby expressed apathy about the discrimination that her biracial son will face. To paraphrase her rant at roughly the five-minute-mark, it wouldn’t upset her if a cop approaches her brown son with higher alert than he would her white sons—awful, cruel, irresponsible. Furthermore, the continued characterization of her brown son’s “intimidating” future self contrasted with the “nerdy” future destined for her white sons is particularly telling of her biases.  

The latter half of the video is spent discussing fatherlessness in the black community. “[Fatherlessness] is what should make the black community angry,” she declares to the lifeless camera. The word “cringe” does no justice to the reaction of those watching. 

From here, I’ll spare criticism of the video and instead plug a thread from Reason’s Zuri Davis who pulls no punches. 

Instead, I want to draw attention to a broader lesson to draw from this video that is particularly useful for young people who want to enter the commentary realm: you don’t have to have an opinion. 

Abby simply could’ve just said nothing. All the backlash she is facing now would be nonexistent. Instead, she could have this take weighing on her broader message for years to come. More forethought could’ve corrected that. 

There’s a Bible passage that changed the entirety of my social interaction at a very young age and it’s a universal truth that needn’t fall deaf onto secular ears. Proverbs 17:27-28 (KJV) reads:

He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

The author of this passage is saying that even when you know nothing, the only way everyone else could discover your ignorance is by opening your mouth.

The respect you garner online can take a massive hit when you have a bad take. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight is far more valuable. Before you interject your take on the hot topic of the day, consider how much value you are adding to the conversation. Ask yourself, “do I need to say this? Is anyone dying to hear my opinion here?” If even weary to declare an enthusiastic “YES” to either question, don’t post it. 

On some subjects, you’ll often hear, “Your silence is deafening.” No, it’s not. Your silence is protecting you from saying something dumb. “Silence is complicity.” No, silence is the wisdom to diagnose your ignorance. The phrase, “I don’t know enough to have an opinion,” should flow regularly into your political conversations. 

This is particularly important if your career, or future career, will not be in politics. Employers scan social media, and a page that is rife with the wrong takes is a liability not worth the employer’s risk. Why risk income simply so you can stand on a soapbox and fire off half-cocked about current events you know little about? 

There is a homework assignment attached to this column: the next time you see a tweet you don’t like, type out your normal response to it. When finished, read it twice over, then delete the entire draft and close Twitter. From there, observe how infrequent negative reactions fly at you when you simply say nothing.

Tanner is a born-and-raised West Virginian. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics from West Virginia University and currently works as an Actuary. His interests include politics, physical fitness, professional soccer, and corgis.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Tanner Mann

West Virginia University

Tanner is a born-and-raised West Virginian. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics from West Virginia University and currently works as an Actuary. His interests include politics, physical fitness, professional soccer, and corgis.

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