After making comments about as blatantly racist as one could imagine, a white Sheriff in Mississippi is now claiming he is NOT racist—he was simply frustrated.
The book Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter, and How They Changed America, available here, addresses the issues of institutional racism in law enforcement as shown through national statistics. The truth is, when people of color and Whites do the same things, POC–especially BIPOC–receive harsher responses and judgments.
This Mississippi sheriff helps explain why.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson was facing political opposition to the construction of a new jail from Hispanic Mississippi state Rep. Shane Aguirre. Angry, he texted Lee County District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan in August 2017:
“He’s worse than a black person, your [sic] not going to please him.”
I asked Sheriff Jim Johnson if he believes the idea that black people are difficult to please.— Caleb Bedillion (@CalebBedillion) August 13, 2019
This was Johnson's response: “I think when you play the race card, yes, it’s difficult to please some people."
In an interview with the Daily Journal, Johnson said his texts were not inspired by racism:
“I was aggravated at him. There was probably no call for mentioning anything of race.”
Imagine using the phrase “race card” and then claiming you’re not racist. Get it together, Mississippi.— Leigh Crosby (@teaandmagnolias) August 13, 2019
Johnson noted several times that he is NOT a racist:
“God made us all the same. I don’t treat anybody any different.”
Unfortunately, the Daily Journal made a public records request that revealed several other questionable texts Johnson sent from his government-issued cell phone.
He needs to go.— the invisible me (@invisib77306381) August 13, 2019
In another text, Johnson complained to Morgan about crime in a black-majority district represented by supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy:
“We had a fatal shooting last night with a Black Motorcycle group in Tommie Lee District. Looks like his district is promoting another group and you can bet there will be trouble. I’m the racist one. This s- – is ridiculous. This is what we deal with every day in that end of the county.”
Fire the racists.— Kolson (@llstudent08) August 14, 2019
In additional text messages @CalebBedillion obtained, Johnson praised District 2 Supervisor Mike Smith after Smith publicly attacked the practice of black elected officials forming caucus organizations. https://t.co/bMynvuJeMB pic.twitter.com/mSOHTpvVyk— Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (@DJournalnow) August 14, 2019
Morgan was quick to issue a statement distancing himself from Johnson and supporting supervisor Ivy:
“The sheriff sent me these messages unprompted, I presume, in an attempt to sway my view on these issues.”
“Though we come from different parties, Tommie Lee Ivy and I have worked on numerous issues over the years and I consider him a close friend. The entire county has benefited from his dedication to public service and I would never condone derogatory remarks directed at him.”
Twitter was pretty harsh in their assessment of Johnson’s words:
A racist cop?— Louis Wu (@ProtectorWu) August 14, 2019
Well I never.
A white sheriff, Jim Johnson in Lee Co Mississippi, Tupelo to be exact; said an official was harder to please than black people. I’m not surprised by the comment.Tupelo is one if the most racist cities in MS. I know because I live 30mins from it.— Will Heard (@heard222) August 16, 2019
Well there goes his job— Jay Henry (@JHUSTLESPORTS) August 14, 2019
Especially in the digital age you would think people would know that there will be consequences especially if you put stuff in a text message. Screenshots aren’t hard to do— Jay Henry (@JHUSTLESPORTS) August 14, 2019
Is MS Sheriff Jim Johnson too stupid to know that his official racist texts are public record?— ((( Steve Todd ))) (@stevenwtodd) August 15, 2019
Why yes, yes he is.https://t.co/0YD2IfC8BM
The Lee County NAACP is now asking for an apology from Johnson over his remarks. Time will tell whether he’s willing to offer one.
Lee County NAACP leaders met tonight and then demanded Sheriff Jim Johnson apologize for racist remarks first reported by the Daily Journal on Tuesday.— Caleb Bedillion (@CalebBedillion) August 16, 2019
“This is not acceptable here,” said Lee County NAACP President Chris Traylor.
As the NAACP met, Sheriff Jim Johnson met across town with all - or nearly all - of his department at West Jackson Street Baptist Church.— Caleb Bedillion (@CalebBedillion) August 16, 2019
Johnson will not respond to messages asking if he'll apologize or to messages asking the purpose of the meeting with his department.