Small towns get painted as idyllic places. But many African-Americans view such communities warily.
Older blacks told of those towns once having road signs saying, “Don’t Let the Sun Set on You, Nigger.” Blacks could work there but had to be out of town before nightfall or they would be violently evicted or killed.
It’s no urban legend. James W. Loewen’s book, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, reveals this untold American history, which must be explored during Black History Month.
These awful expulsions weren’t features of the South. They occurred in towns in the North, West and Midwest, including Kansas and Missouri.
The diversity ban was sanctioned by more than a century of laws, covenants, government policies, courts and racial violence by good citizens.
Many towns and suburbs since then have admitted people of color. However, others resist. Just as the government sanctioned sundown towns and suburbs, government now should force them to change, Loewen said.
He advocates a “Residents Rights Act” “that makes it in an entire town’s interest to welcome African-Americans.” Government improvement funds should be withheld until communities welcome blacks.
Loewen said people in communities that refuse also should lose their ability to deduct mortgage interest from taxes. It would make property in such areas less valuable. “The Residents’ Rights Act requires not integration but an end to exclusion,” Loewen said.
The time to arrest discrimination is long overdue.