Today’s featured Sundown town is McLean County, Kentucky.
There are other “all white” pockets, however, that make no sense when compared to their state or surroundings. McLean County, Kentucky, is one such Sundown County. It has been blissfully white for longer than anyone can remember. There are two African-American families that have been allowed to live in peace there. They are not embraced, but are merely tolerated (they have lived there for many decades). The populace of the county treats these blacks as tokens, and they use them to congratulate themselves about their forward-thinking and to show publicly they are not racist. “See? There’s our black people, right over there – both of ’em!”
Yet, without having a sign that clearly says “Whites Only”, McLean County (and more onerously its county seat of Calhoun) is a Sundown community. The word “nigger” can be heard off-handedly any day of the week in Calhoun. Racist jokes that the denizens think are funny are told and retold. Livermore, Kentucky (a town in McLean County), hosted a lynching in the mid 20th Century. The mere handfuls of token blacks who live in the area of Calhoun do not live in the midst of concentrated white populations.
Not one of the “good” Christians who live in the county would openly admit they discriminate or are racists. In 2010, the local Catholic Church (the only one in Calhoun) was sent its new priest after the older one retired. He happened to be African. The priest moved into the church rectory – after settling into his new digs, he made the mistake of going out to walk around his new town. Police response was immediate, and he was detained on the street unnecessarily while he tried to explain (in his heavily accented English) who he was and why he was walking around Calhoun. He lives there and conducts his Church services. But, unfortunately, the community does not embrace him, and they quietly resent his presence as both a black man and as a “foreigner” (of whom they are all suspicious).
As proof of Calhoun’s (and McLean County’s) Sundown status a look at the most recent 2010 US Census data bears out the claim. In 2010, McLean County’s roughly 60 black Americans accounted for 0.6% of the county’s total population. Unlike the counties in northern Idaho, however, this is no accident of demography – the counties surrounding McLean County had black populations ranging from 4.5% up to 6.6% of their populace. The Commonwealth of Kentucky in the 2010 US Census reported over 9% of its population as African-American or black.
McLean County’s paltry 0.6% black population (when compared to its neighbors and the Commonwealth at large) is proof of its racist Sundown status.