Opinion

Renée Graham

Racists will not make America a ‘sundown’ country

This photo shows the locked gate of the Glenridge Community Pool in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, July 6, 2018. Adam Bloom, a white man who challenged a black family's use of a gated pool in a North Carolina neighborhood, has not only resigned from the homeowner's association board - he's also lost his job. (Walt Unks/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)
Walt Unks/The Winston-Salem Journal via Associated Press
The locked gate of the Glenridge Community Pool in Winston-Salem, N.C., where Adam Bloom, a white man, challenged a black family’s use of the pool and called the police.

We see you.

When the video corroborating your racism goes viral, you’ll be rebranded with a hashtag both hilarious and shaming. You will likely lose your job because your employer will recognize that employing a known bigot is bad for business. You’ll offer some pinched by-the-book apology claiming that the person seen on television and social media millions of times does not at all represent the person you are.

Of course, we know better. The snarling white person who calls the police on a black child selling water, black teens at a pool, or black people having a barbeque in a public park is exactly who you are.

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You will not make America a “sundown” country.

After the Civil War, white officials and residents established sundown towns, where black people within its borders were warned not to “let the sun set on them.” That meant they needed to be gone before nightfall. It was a means of controlling, though intimidation and violence, black lives. In various eras, those rules would also be imposed on Jews, Mexicans, and Japanese-Americans.

Every time a white person calls the police on an innocent person of color, they are giving rise to new sundown rules, except these occur any time of the day.

Back in April, two young black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks for nothing more than being two young black men. In response, the coffee chain closed all of its stores for a day of racial bias education and training for its 175,000 employees.

It’s America that needs to be closed to teach white people about their privilege, bias, and its shattering effect on people of color. Instead, there’s a steady stream of incidents where a white person calls or threatens to call the police on black or brown people doing mundane things.

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An Ohio woman called the police after an African-American boy accidentally mowed part of her lawn. Police in Oregon responded to a report of a “suspicious person” who turned out to be a black state legislator canvassing her district. In Oakland, a black firefighter conducting a routine fire prevention inspection was suspected of “criminal activity.” Harkening back to the Jim Crow era, several recent racist incidents have occurred at public pools.

Black folks can’t even bury their dead. After a mourner accidentally knocked over a chalice, a Maryland priest ordered everyone to “get the hell out of my church.” This time, it was the family who called the police — to help them move the casket of their deceased mother to another location.

And these are just the incidents we’ve heard about.

Here’s what astounds me. White folks harassing people of color know that they’re being taped — and they still don’t care. They’re so convinced that police exist to protect and serve them alone that they can only envision an outcome where a black or brown person is hauled away in handcuffs. Given the lethal consequences that can occur when police interact with people of color, 911 calls have been weaponized.

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These callers are aping the actions of President Trump, who has drawn hard lines about who does and doesn’t belong here. Making America great again will never mean embracing this nation’s shifting racial and ethnic demographics amid a dwindling white population. With Trump using terms once reserved for vermin to describe migrants at the border and his push to “denaturalize” people who became American citizens, the tactic seems to be this: If you can’t be deported, at least we can have you arrested.

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But we see you. There are cellphones and social media accounts to expose you. Your actions will not go unchallenged. And like #PermitPatty, #IDAdam, and #BBQBecky, the world will see exactly who you are and what happens when racism compels you to disturb someone else’s peace.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@reneeygraham.