Sundown Town: No Niggers Allowed


“We become like dead branches and last year’s leaves and what the hell good are we for ourselves and the world in a mental ghetto.” ― Chaim Potok

From slavery to disenfranchisement; from inequality to Civil Rights; the “surface” journey of the African-American in this country has been well documented, however the footnotes detailing our plight are often scribbled with faded ink atop brittle pieces of papyrus.  Many tend to conclude that the summary of our “plight” came in the form of a powerful dream diatribe delivered by a reverend from Atlanta Georgia in front of a famous monument.  There are others who tend to believe that our conclusion occurred during a presidential election some six years ago.  I do in fact recognize that we are indeed living in a better day with greater opportunity, as my mother who once was served thru the darkened back hole of a luncheonette in Virginia, can now eat wherever she pleases when we dine out together. Yes the winds of change have blown, yet the infectious storm of bias still continues to rage forward in America.  We awake in a time of social unrest and racial divide.  We also awake in a time where we find ourselves having to question the moral ethics of people, as we continue to sift thru the subliminal minefields of ignorance.  I usually pray for measured responses when inquiries about the behavior of the African-American culture emerge, however as I find myself scrolling down my Facebook feed, I continue to read what I deem as “tactical racists epitaphs” being spewed relentlessly. Adjectives such as “savage” and “animals” are being projectile vomited on countless feeds when any discussions regarding the upheaval in Ferguson Missouri is mentioned, which for all intent and purpose is just basic, subliminal camouflage for the word that they really want to use which is “nigger”.  So as I meditate on this primitive behavior, I find myself alarmingly disturbed, yet fascinated by the word “behavior”.  Behavior is defined as “a stereotyped, species-specific activity, as a courtship dance or startle reflex”.  So as we find ourselves on an epic cusp of defining what exactly is “justice” in America, we also find ourselves embedded in redefining the “humanitarian” as well. Now let me be clear in saying that I have never condoned violence, yet I will say in the same context that I have never condoned racism or bigotry either. In this great racial tapestry known as America, we tend to ignore the systemic results of “cause and effect”. We hear from the non-African-American: “Why do they have to behave that way?” and “Why don’t they try to change their situations for the better?”  In other words if I was to interpret those said phrases, one would have to conclude that the real rhetorical statement is:  “Why can’t they just behave like us. I mean they have rights now don’t they?”  Of course these are all valid questions, however you would think that the intelligent individual would take it a step further and ask the real pertinent question:  “What caused this type of behavior?”  What would pain a society to the point that they are willing to burn and destroy their existing habitat? What would turn “hope” into a non option, yet turn “destruction” into the only option.  Martin Luther King Jr stated that “A riot is the language of the unheard”, so I would guess that violence must be the method of the speechless.  If you are told that you are equal under the law, yet your experience has shown equality to be fallacious, then one would have to ask where do we go from here? Where do the non accepted go and what happens to their mental makeup when this type of out-casting occurs?  But most importantly me must ask, who rejected them in the first place and why?  People ask that these so-called persons or people not behave as “savages” and “animals”.  They request that they should adhere to becoming more civil minded, community oriented and law-abiding.  However as I stated beforehand I would like to concentrate on the word “behavior”. Part of “behavior’s” definition states “as a courtship dance or startle reflex”, which suggests that behavior is learned by your interaction with “someone or something” and how that “someone or something” reacts instinctively towards you may cause a counter reaction.  So in other words behavior could be both responsive and reflective due to interaction.  In recognizing the down trodden temperament of the minority impoverished communities and the vitriol being levied by the supposed more “civil obedient” non-minority communities, I began to research where the disconnect occurred. I wanted to get an understanding as to where the disheartening discourse and lack of humanitarian empathy began. Segregation was well documented, however segregation was also abolished 60 years ago in 1954. So what transpired in the “footnotes” that allowed such a broad, opposing, dynamic in polarity as it relates to the minority and non-minority communities?  In my research I ran across one contributing factor called “Sundown Towns”.  Sundown Towns or “Gray Towns” were a town, city, or neighborhood in the United States that was purposely made into all-white communities.  These communities would post signs to inform a person(s) color that they had to leave by sundown or risk being harassed, inflicted with violence or lynched.  It was the adopted town policy of many of these towns to place restrictive covenants discouraging who could purchase or rent property in these communities, insuring that harassment by the law enforcement would be initiated if those covenants were ever to be violated. It was an estimated 10,000 Sundown Towns throughout America, prompting the popular use of The Negro Motorist Green Book that was a traveling guide for African-Americans so that they could avoid areas where there was racial profiling by police officers and instances of African-Americans vanishing.  Levittown N.Y was a Sundown Town, so this was not just an adopted practice of southerners.  If you are a minority growing up in an urban community, you have probably been told “come home before the street lights come on”.  I am more than sure that this became an adopted philosophy and an urban tale that derived from the Sundown Town theory as well. So when questions are posed to me about the behavior within the minority community and their apparent “savagery” and “animalistic” tendencies, I say let’s first discuss “behavior” and the cause and effect associated with it.  Segregation was abolished 60 years ago, for most of us, that’s the age of one of our parents.  Let that sink in, but also, let us read the footnotes of history instead of the books with colorful pictures and glorified holidays attached to them.  I would be negligent if I did not mention that Sundown Towns excluded Mexicans, Native Americans, Japanese and Jewish people as well.  So when I am asked as a minority to explain behavior, I redirect that same inquiry to the majority as well.  You explain first, then I will explain mine. #each one teach one

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