Lee County, Miss., Sheriff Jim Johnson finds himself under national scrutiny over a racist text message he wrote two years ago. Sent to Lee County District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan, the offending message said of State Representative Shane Aguirre that “He’s worse than a black person.”
At the time, Lee County was in the midst of a debate over a proposed new jail. Johnson and Morgan favored the construction of a new county jail; Aguirre opposed it. Speaking to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Johnson owned up to the text message, offering the excuse, “I was aggravated at [Aguirre].” Continuing, he did add the non-apology: “There was probably no call for mentioning anything of race.”
No insight into the local debate over the construction of a new jail is needed to recognize that Johnson’s statement is racist and, frankly, disqualifies him from serving in a position of public trust and authority. Aguirre could’ve been completely off the rails regarding the construction of the new jail, but the claim “he’s worse than a black person” is appalling and should never have been thought, much less typed and texted.
A famous Bible verse says, “For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). It doesn’t matter that Sheriff Johnson insisted to the Daily Journal that he’s not a racist because he believes “God made us all the same.” His lack of remorse for his racist words reveal what’s truly in his heart. This makes his claim that “I don’t treat anybody any different” highly suspect.
Our brave men and women in blue put their lives on the line in the service of our communities. And they do so during a time when some want to paint them all as violent racists. Sheriff Johnson’s words are not only racist, but they also serve to make the jobs of the officers under him harder to carry out. Good luck trying to convince the people of color in Lee County that the Sheriff’s Office is color blind. It’s not. The proof of that fact is found in the vile words of Johnson. He’s driven a wedge between the Sheriff’s Office and the community of Lee County. No one, regardless of color, should feel served and protected when local law enforcement is presided over by an out-and-out racist.
Even if he’s not willing to recant his racism and seek to change, Jim Johnson should resign as sheriff of Lee County for the sake of the deputies who serve under him and for the good of the community at large. If he’s unwilling to do that, the citizens of Lee County should demand his removal from office.