Sundown towns and Kenosha

All people should be able to travel safely.

Shefali O'Hara
3 min readNov 16, 2021


Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I recently got into a dialog with someone on here. The basic gist of it — she wanted Kyle Rittenhouse to get 10 years in jail just for being in Kenosha.

I get it, she’s angry. But, the issue is not whether or not Rittenhouse is an idiot. On that point, she and I agreed. I went further and said that his parents were idiots too, for giving a 17 year old permission to go into a potentially dangerous situation like that. But is he considered guilty just for being there? The point of a trial is to determine if someone broke the law. So I asked her — did Rittenhouse break any laws by being on a public street? Sure, he was an idiot to show up during the protest. But was his walking there illegal?

Of course, one reason I may take umbrage at the idea that people cannot walk down a city street — because where I live, in Texas, there are still sundown towns.

What is a sundown town, you may ask.

Let me tell you. You may want to be sitting down before you read further, though. Because this will make you very angry. I know the first time I heard about these places, I was spitting mad.

You see, a sundown town is a place where black folks are not allowed after dark. Back in the days of Jim Crow, there used to be signs at the boundaries of these places that said things like “Don’t let the sun set on you here, nigger”. (Sorry to use that word, but I wanted to be historically accurate. I can only imagine the pain this language caused.)

After the Civil Rights era, these signs were removed but the people living in these places did not have racism removed from their hearts. These towns continue to be dangerous for black people.

I first heard about sundown towns as a graduate student in Texas. My office-mate, a black girl from Jamaica, mentioned a road trip she was planning. A local told her not to stop at a particular town along that route.

I was outraged, as were others who’d just learned of this.

Isn’t this kind of discrimination illegal? How dare it still occur???

Everyone, regardless of race, should be fighting against this crap.



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.