Black, pro-business, Republican and not a sellout
This article is part of an ongoing series profiling candidates running for various offices and how their election might impact our communities.
Systems engineer and longtime North Minneapolis resident Lacy Johnson is a state representative candidate for Minnesota District 59B, which covers North, North Loop and Downtown Minneapolis.
Johnson’s approach in appealing to better-off 59B pockets while negotiating for North Minneapolis’s Black community, he said, is to try new things. Johnson is running in the heavily liberal district as a Republican.
“First of all, I’ve got the street credibility,” said Johnson of his upbringing and decades living in North Minneapolis. “They can’t accuse me of being a sellout, an Uncle Tom.”
Johnson, who grew up poor in pre-segregation Mississippi and distances himself from Trump (but won’t say if he voted for Obama), insists his allegiance is only to results for the Black, poor and homeless. In his view, nothing has worked. An alternative worth trying, he said, is Black wealth creation and a strong family unit.
This Black man’s Republicanism came to him as he watched football great and civil rights activist Jim Brown come on the news for visiting Trump Tower. At the sight of Brown’s excoriation by many Blacks for meeting Trump, Johnson said he decided to become a Republican.
“I’m old enough to remember LBJ [Lyndon B. Johnson]. He called Black folks n*ggers,” said Johnson. “Here’s the thing: MLK [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] sat down with him.”
Johnson said King got the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing acts passed with a bigot because King wanted to make people’s lives easier. “That’s why King sat with him, not because he liked the guy.”
As an engineer with software experience, he said he boils everything down to empirical input and output. Everything else, racism included, does not matter. He said government is much the same; he will bypass sentiment for resource.
Johnson said he wants Blacks to change how they think about fixing problems, to see wealth as the way to leverage the political system. He says the way to wealth is through a tight family unit, education, and hard work.
“If you listen to me carefully, I’m saying, look, we’ve got a Black Bill Gates out there, a Black Larry Ellison” said Johnson, adding that a close read of Democrats shows they don’t think Black people have that talent.
Read on to find out what he hopes to accomplish if elected and what he considers the most controversial issues.
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder: What’s the most important thing you want to accomplish when you get in office?
Lacy Johnson: To change the attitude, perspective and approach to resolving issues facing my district and enact legislation which reflects these changes. For example, implement free enterprise, for-profit-based solutions rather than nonprofit and government-based ones and recognize and the importance of family as the building block of successful communities and cultures.
MSR: What’s the most controversial issue you think you have to deal with when you get in office and how are you going to deal with it?
LJ: Decriminalization of marijuana will likely be the most controversial issue. I will deal with it by building on some of dialogues I’ve had with law enforcement, key current office seekers, and other stakeholders who realize the negative impact it is having on certain communities, families, and individuals, especially the Black male; point out the ineffectiveness of it being illegal; and rallying political support and will to implement change.
MSR: How do we get money out of politics, i.e. limiting campaign financing?
LJ: It is highly unlikely we will get money out of politics in our capitalistic system as long as the Bill of Rights exists. The most that can be hoped for is an adjustment to the Citizen United Supreme Court decision which permits unlimited money into the process. Ultimately, the best defense against money is a knowledgeable electorate.
We, as citizens, need to work harder to understand issues and solutions, be less partisan in our outlook, and make ideas and proposed solutions to issues more important than political personalities and parties.
MSR: What do you say to people who hate politicians?
LJ: First, one should never hate… It lessens the person and all of us as human beings. I do understand if one’s viewpoint of politicians is very negative. But, secondly, I’d say look in the mirror. Our politicians are reflective of us. Politicians know that we vote for who we like. So elections are popularity campaigns. There’s a reason they all talk the same. Enough said.
MSR: What is your favorite story about your district?
LJ: While walking along West Broadway, I heard a young Black man, putting gas into his Mercedes with the fancy rims, say to two young ladies, “Stop peeking and start speaking.” We struck up a conversation and he told me what a player he was. I said to him, “All that’s good, but all this craziness in these streets is not gonna stop until we brothers start loving, respecting, and marrying the mothers of our children.”
We’d run into each other out in the community from time to time and my message was the same. About a year or two later, he yelled at me across the parking lot to come over and meet his wife and son. He’d joined a church. He was driving a Mercury Mountaineer. And he ended by saying, “You thought I wasn’t listening, but I was.”
MSR: What is the greatest impact your position will have on the African American community?
LJ: It will offer a different way of thinking, which will lead to a different way of doing things, which will lead to visible, measurable, and sustainable results in tackling the problems facing our district.
MSR: What elected officials (past or present) in the state do you most admire or serve as role models for you?