[Pnews] Imprisoned in Sundown Towns: The Racial Politics of My Domestic Exile

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 2 11:18:50 EDT 2021


*Imprisoned in Sundown Towns: The Racial Politics of My Domestic Exile 
(2021)***

By Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

*Power Reacts to All Threats*

On July 12, 2021 I was transferred from the Indiana prison system to the 
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (sic!). This was my 
/sixth/ interstate prison system transfer in nine years. For a state 
prisoner, which I am, that’s unheard of.

Power reacts to all threats. Most of the many people I work with 
recognize these transfers to be official reactions to my political work.

A major component of my work has been against racism and its central 
role as a counterrevolutionary tool and weapon of the capitalist 
imperialist system, used to polarize the oppressed masses and pit them 
against each other.

As comrade Fred Hampton Sr. of the original Black Panther Party (BPP) 
said, you don’t fight fire with fire, you put fire out with water, and 
likewise, you don’t fight racism with racism, you fight racism with 
solidarity. The correctness of this political line is proven by the fact 
that the government’s consistent response to struggles for genuine 
solidarity across racial lines is to incite and play up racial divisions.

In fact it was the U.S. government that always tried to falsely portray 
the BPP as an anti-white group.

Similarly, in 2009 I was profiled in a book-length report by the 
Virginia State Police’s “Fusion Center,” in collaboration with the Feds, 
as a “Domestic Terrorist Threat.” The reasons given were that I proved 
effective at exposing the abuses of the U.S. prison system to the public 
and mobilizing their protests against those conditions, and that I 
sought to revive the work of the BPP. Emphasis was put on the fact that 
in my work I promoted a philosophy of “the brotherhood of the 
oppressed.” Readers should take special note that I was deemed a 
“terrorist threat” */not/* because of promoting division, but rather for 
promoting */unity/*.

The government targeted Fred Hampton on the same basis, and its 
*/reaction/* to the threat he presented in his unrivaled effectiveness 
at organizing and uniting with oppressed whites, was to drug and murder 
him in his sleep.

The reaction to my perceived threat in advancing the same line and 
platform, has been to not just repeatedly interstate transfer me, but to 
place me each time in prisons and prison systems notorious for racist 
staff, many located in “Sundown Towns.” The pattern and tactic are 
undeniable.

It’s important that readers grasp from this discussion that racism is 
and always has been manufactured and manipulated by the establishment 
(the ruling class and government) as a counterrevolutionary strategy to 
divide and control the people.

*The Politics of Racism*

The state serves and protects the interests of the ruling class. As V.I. 
Lenin correctly observed in “The State and Revolution,” the foundation 
of state power is the military, police and, of course, prisons. So, 
anyone representing a bonafide threat to the capitalist imperialist 
ruling class and their system of control, can expect to meet resistance 
from its armed protectors. It’s simply a natural mechanism of 
self-preservation, and is why every genuine revolutionary recognizes 
that s/he lives every moment in the crosshairs of the reactionary state.

But as Fred Hampton, Kwame Nkrumah, and so many other revolutionary 
scientists pointed out, capitalism and racism go hand and hand. So, what 
should those who challenge the system on both fronts expect but a racist 
response? Which is exactly what I’ve received.

Before looking at the specifics of my situation, it’s important that the 
reader see from an historical and political standpoint that racism was 
an */invention/* of the ruling class and its state, and is used 
deliberately to maintain control of the masses.

Racial classifications and racism are not and have never been innate. 
People do not “naturally” polarize and view or treat each other 
antagonistically because of differences in skin color, hair and body 
type, etc.

Race is */manufactured /*and used (manipulated) by a very specific group 
of people for a very specific purpose. That group of people is the 
minority ruling class, who first invented and refined the method during 
the colonial era. Its purpose was to polarize the masses of oppressed 
people against each other, because when and if they were allowed to 
unite they’d easily recognize the ruling minority of the wealthy as the 
source of everyone else’s inequality and insecurity, and their natural 
impulse would be to revolt against this numerically inferior minority 
that lives in luxury through exploiting everyone else!

The early colonial system was plagued by such revolts. In this regard, 
the ruling class had to use one sector of the oppressed masses to police 
and contain other sectors, which they could not effectively do 
themselves, again because of their small numbers. This method of 
racialized social control began in the English North American colonies 
in the late 17th Century, and spread throughout the colonial world.

In early colonial North Amerika, people were not categorized by race. In 
fact, as Theodore Allen explained in Volume 2 of his extensively 
documented study, /The Invention of the White Race/, in the laws of that 
social system, there were no classifications of people by race. The 
slaves and indentured servants who were exploited for their labor by the 
colonial ruling class were composed of Afrikans, Europeans and 
AmerIndians. These laborers united by a common condition of oppression 
found common cause in united rebellions. United revolts were a common 
feature of the system of forced servitude all across the Western hemisphere.

In the English North American colonies it came to a head in 1676. A 
young planter, Nathaniel Bacon, in a quest to expand the colonial 
territory into surrounding AmerIndian lands against the opposition of 
the Virginian governor William Berkeley, who wanted to maintain trade 
relations with the surrounding First Nations, incited the Afrikan and 
European laborers to revolt against the Virginia government, promising 
freedom and land.

This revolt, known as Bacon’s Rebellion, which began as a genocidal 
campaign against AmerIndians, ended as a united slave revolt that 
overthrew the Virginia colonial government, burned down the capitol at 
Jamestown, and sent governor Berkeley into exile.

Six months into the revolt Bacon died of influenza, and, deprived of its 
leadership, the revolt was put down by treachery, but with a band of 
Afrikans holding out until the last.

With the colonial government reinstated, there began the process of 
devising a system of social control that would prevent the recurrence of 
such a devastating uprising. This was when and why the racialization of 
society and the cultivation of racial chauvinism began.

In 1682 the colonial government began passing laws that divided the 
population according to race—white and “Negro”— and phasing out 
servitude and enslavement of “whites,” with slavery made an exclusive 
hereditary and permanent status for “Negroes.”

To solidify the racial line, in 1705 the hypo-descent rule was created, 
which declared anyone with “a single drop” of African blood to be 
“Negro.” This way the multitudes of “mixed bloods” produced by the 
systematic sexual abuse of slave girls and women by “white” males (which 
was one of the “privileges” of whiteness), would not inherit the 
“privilege” of being “white” from the fathers.

Another privilege of “whiteness” was the entitlement to own property, 
which slaves could not do as they were deemed property, or chattel, 
themselves. This is why slaves were forbidden to marry. The basis of 
marriage, rooted in feudalism, was to restrict the sexual freedom of 
women to allow the inheritance of property to be traceable and to pass 
through the male line. Deprived of marriage, slave society was 
matriarchal, and lineage passed through the mother, with one’s slave 
(chattel) status “inherited” from the mother.

The poor whites, most of whom were dirt farmers that lived worse than 
the slaves, were taught by the cultural institutions of the ruling class 
to believe that having “white” skin like the planter ruling class, made 
them superior to the “Negro.” So, many took a sort of perverse pleasure 
and sense of social compensation in degrading, lording their “skin” 
over, and abusing Blacks (physically, sexually, verbally, and so on.)

The decisive move for consolidating the system of racial rule and terror 
came in the early 1700s when poor whites were conscripted into what 
became the plantation system’s police force—the slave patrols—which 
politically armed and empowered them to police and brutalize the entire 
Black population, to keep them “in order” and suppress potential slave 
revolts, which the ruling class kept the entire “white” society in 
constant paranoid fear of.

The white population thus “contained” Blacks through racial terror and 
kept them under siege as they were indoctrinated by the ruling class to 
live in perpetual fear of slave uprisings, portrayed as “Negroes with 
guns” who were forever plotting to kill all whites. This fear of the 
“enemy within” plotting a race war, induced white society to remain 
armed to the teeth while fearing Black communities arming themselves.

*Socialization to Racist Terror*

These same trends and fears persist and are used today in policing and 
imprisonment (essentially the ongoing “containment”) of Black 
communities in Amerika.

In fact, the */conditioned/* Black community fear of slave patrol 
violence */is exactly the same in relation to police today/*. Black 
parents are still compelled to give their children “The Talk” on how to 
conduct themselves when confronted by police in hopes of saving their 
lives just as in the days of the slave patrols: the children are 
instructed to be passive, overly polite, deferential, to show no 
aggression or assertiveness, abandon all pride and dignity, expect and 
accept whatever abuse is meted out (physical and verbal) but do nothing 
to “provoke” them to escalate the abuse such as defending oneself or 
demanding respect, and so on. It’s the same socialization to racist 
terror, in a society that has never confronted its racist past, its 
continued racist practices, and the*/true /*origin and source of racism. 
Because to do so would be to expose the greatest tool of social control 
used by the wealthy ruling elite to divide and rule everyone else.

It is to avoid this exposure that all manner of theories about racism 
being innate are tossed around by elites whenever some outrageous act of 
racism compels the masses to talk about solving the evils of racism.

The source of racism and racist terror isn’t hard to find. It is a 
social condition manufactured by the ruling class and political system, 
and armed by the capitalist state. Which brings me back to my own 
experiences.

*White Power Against Disempowered Blacks*

It’s by design that the bulk of policing forces in communities of color 
consist of whites who come from other communities (just like the poor 
whites who made up the slave patrols and hired out as overseers on the 
slave plantations), and that the vast majority of high security prisons 
with the harshest conditions are located in segregated rural white 
communities, most of which are steeped in racist culture and stereotyped 
views of people of color. Again, it is the exact same state-created and 
enforced use of armed whites to contain disempowered Blacks.

It’s been very deliberate that every prison that I’ve been interstate 
transferred to, has been based in just such segregated rural white 
communities, most having particular notoriety for racism, and the 
prisoners live under conditions of racial terror at the hands of the 
guards; just a continuation of the racial terror they experienced in 
their communities at the hands of police before their capture and 
confinement */by/* the police.

Let’s begin with the fact that I was confined from 1998 until I was 
first transferred out of state in 2012, to the notoriously racist Red 
Onion State Prison and Wallens Ridge State Prison, two sister supermax 
prisons located a few miles apart in the mountains of rural, white 
segregated Southwestern Virginia.

These two prisons, built in 1998 and 1999 respectively, developed 
instant nationwide notoriety upon opening for racist abuse of their 
predominantly Black prisoner populations.

The inhumane abuses and tasteless racism at Red Onion State Prison was 
put on national display within a year of its opening by Human Rights 
Watch, which independently investigated conditions at Red Onion and 
published its findings in a 1999 report that can be read on its website, 
titled /Red Onion State Prison: Supermaximum Security Confinement in 
Virginia/.

I was one of the many prisoners who appealed to Human Rights Watch to 
investigate Red Onion. In the years that followed I helped bring more 
public exposure and resistance to the abuses at Red Onion and Wallens 
Ridge, which is what led to my first interstate transfer.

My first transfer in 2012 was to Oregon – the one state in the U.S. that 
expelled all Black people and consequently still has only a tiny Black 
population. Oregon joined the “Union” as a literal Sundown */state/*.

Immediately upon my confinement in the Oregon prison system, officials 
there attempted to incite violence between me and the numerous white 
supremacist prisoner groups there, by telling them I am a Black Panther 
which they falsely portrayed as an anti-white “group” that aspires to 
kill all white people and such nonsense—the same anti-white lies 
projected against enslaved Blacks, the BPP, etc. to keep Blacks and our 
organizing efforts under a perpetual state of racial siege fueled by 
manufactured paranoid white fear of Blacks and our organizations, and to 
keep the masses of Blacks and whites polarized and fearful of each other.

I wrote about my Oregon experience and the racial divide-and-conquer 
games the pigs tried to play, and how they failed.^^[1] <#_ftn1>

My second interstate transfer (in 2013) was to Texas, which even the 
federal courts openly denounced for its extremely racist, corrupt and 
abusive prison system.^^[2] <#_ftn2>

In fact it was Texas that simply merged the old plantation slave system 
with its prison system after the Civil War, and still today forces all 
of its prisoners to perform uncompensated slave labor in chain-gang type 
work squads (called “hoe squads”). These prisoners, who of course are 
disproportionately people of color, are forced to plant, tend and 
harvest huge crops of all manner of agriculture including cotton, using 
only hand-held hoes—hence the name “hoe squad” (plows, combines and 
other basic agricultural tools and modern technology are not allowed — 
the work is */meant/* to be labor-intensive, slow and grueling). These 
work squads are closely patrolled by groups of armed guards on 
horseback, who are almost invariably white. To witness these squads at 
work is to witness a scene that looks like something from an old slave 
movie. Every Black prisoner whom I talked to about their experiences 
working these squads, was triggered and traumatized by the experience of 
literally reliving historic slave conditions.

My third interstate transfer (in 2017) was to Florida, which is even 
more notorious than Texas for its abusive prisons and the blatant racism 
of their staff and administrators. Indeed, the scandal of prisoners 
being routinely beaten, tortured, and murdered by Florida guards, has 
been featured in the /Miami Herald/, which can be read online, 
especially since 2014. Based on my own observations and experiences in 
Florida, the /Miami Herald/’s coverage barely scratched the surface. The 
corruption and abuse I witnessed in Florida was unlike anything I’ve 
witnessed anywhere else.

Even members of Florida’s legislature admitted in the /Herald/ that its 
prisons are run by card-carrying Klansmen. A culture of racist impunity 
permeates them, and one Black Florida legislator admitted she was 
terrified in the company of the white staff at a prison in Lake Butler, 
FL where I was confined, when she toured it in 2018, the same year I was 
in Florida.

After barely a year in Florida and in response to my own involvement in 
challenging and exposing the abuses in its prisons, Florida officials 
demanded that Virginia remove me from their custody, giving Virginia a 
five-day ultimatum.

Because of the immediate need to remove me from Florida, Virginia 
officials had to take me back temporarily until another racist state 
could be found to send me to.

While back in Virginia I was initially sent back to Red Onion and held 
in an empty cellblock, then moved to Virginia’s Death Row (where only 
three prisoners were housed) in an effort to play petty psychology and 
to isolate me until my next move.

Several months later, in November 2018, I was interstate transferred to 
Indiana, a state that bears the historic distinction of having Amerika’s 
largest concentration of Ku Klux Klan members in U.S. history. Fully 
half of some of its branches of government and a third of its male 
population were Klansmen during the 1900s. A cultural and value system 
that has not changed at all. Indiana still boasts numerous sundown towns.

In fact, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, the Indiana prison I was 
confined to just before my most recent transfer to Ohio, is located in 
Carlisle, Indiana, a sundown town that forcibly expelled its entire 
Black population after a thwarted lynching in 1904, and has kept Blacks 
out ever since.

Today, Carlisle maintains a 97% white population, with its Black 
population consisting of the men held in prison.

And now, my latest interstate transfer (on July 12, 2021) was to Ohio, 
where I’m currently confined in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, 
aka Lucasville prison, renowned for the April 1993 uprising against 
brutal conditions that resulted in a settlement fund to compensate 
prisoners for more abuses committed as a result of the protest.

The staff here at Lucasville is about as openly racist as it’s possible 
to be. The hostility and lynch mob energy of many of the guards is 
visceral. They make racist jokes and comment openly as prisoners pass 
them during movement to recreation or the chow hall for example. They 
order the prisoners around like they’re talking to cattle, and routinely 
use racist epithets, and curse them. And the horror stories don’t stop.

All I’ve heard since I’ve been here is about prisoners being beaten, 
“found” hanging (lynchings by guards staged as suicides), starved, 
conditions in solitary confinement that reduce many to living in and 
throwing body waste, and much else.

The corrupt impunity and racist staff culture here reminds me of Red 
Onion and Wallens Ridge prisons in Virginia. Many of the guards here 
come from segregated rural white communities of West Virginia, 
communities like those local to the two Virginia super-maxes that draw 
their staff from rural West Virginia and Kentucky.

At Lucasville the prisoners live in constant fear and expectation of 
violent abuse and arbitrary mistreatment. The same old systemic racist 
police terror.

The guards don’t even pretend at being professional. It’s like living in 
the antebellum South, where the guards project attitudes of violent, 
menacing entitlement to say and do as they please to the prisoners, and 
dare them to even seem displeased. Of course it all displeases me and I 
wear my displeasure openly.

In turn the guards here have instructed others in my cellblock to not 
talk or pass items to me, or they will have their cells ransacked under 
the guise of cell searches, they will be thrown in solitary, etc. Those 
seen talking to me are confronted by guards and given the third degree. 
I’m the “bad nigger” to be isolated and shunned, an embodiment of that 
evil Black insurgent that feeds white racist paranoia. This paranoia has 
often given vent to the most barbaric abuses carried out by entire white 
communities. Lucasville, like each prison I’ve been interstate 
transferred to, draws its staff from just such communities.

Since being here, I’ve been denied all my personal property, which I was 
forced to leave behind in Indiana. They’re trying to solitarily confine 
me in General Population! I’m not expected to last long in GP anyway.

I’ve had both ranking guards and prisoners inform me what’s in store 
*/when/* (not if) I’m sent to actual solitary, where my isolation will 
be complete. Many prisoners here tell me Lucasville has refined the 
practice of isolating (disappearing) prisoners and holding them 
incommunicado. Cutting them off from other prisoners by housing them 
long term in isolated cells in isolated cellblocks, and cutting off 
their access to the outside world by denying phone access, intercepting 
and destroying mail, etc.

*State-Enforced Racism*

Most people of color in Amerika experience the racist terror of the 
government through encounters with police, which are common but not 
constant. Inside U.S. jails and prisons, however, where prisoners live 
under total scrutiny and control of guards, the racist terror is 
constant. In */all /*cases it is deliberate. It is a condition created 
and enforced by the state.

Remember that throughout U.S. history, the framework of racism was 
*/always/* set up and legalized */by the government/*. In various 
states, the laws and courts adjusted themselves and their guidelines to 
accommodate the racist practices in their particular territories. The 
Supreme Court set the general framework for the entire country. These 
were landmark decisions. Let’s start with the antebellum decision of 
/Dred Scott v. Sandford/, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), which held that Blacks are 
not Amerikan citizens nor people and have no rights that whites were 
bound to respect. Or how about /U.S. v. Cruikshank/, 92 U.S. 542 (1875), 
that gave lynch mobs protection from federal prosecution. There was 
/Plessy v. Ferguson/, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) that legalized Jim Crow 
(“separate but equal”) segregation. Then came /Brown v. Board of 
Education/, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) that overruled Jim Crow in words only, 
but only to limit the negative impact of racial segregation on diplomats 
of the newly liberated Afrikan nations visiting and living in Amerika, 
whom the State Department was trying to woo to gain preferential access 
to the vast natural resources in those Afrikan regions.

The reinstatement of open racist practices was set out under /Washington 
v. Davis/, 426 U.S. 229 (1976), by legalizing the “sneaky racism” 
popularized by Richard Nixon, of implementing racist practices and 
policies while disguising the actual racist motives. /Washington v. 
Davis/ established that it was fine to practice racist abuse so long as 
one doesn’t express a racist */motive/*. This is still the prevailing 
standard of racism today. Actually, it is being used increasingly to 
revoke many of the “Civil Rights” and “Affirmative Action” reforms made 
during the era of /Brown v. Board of Education/, by claiming that since 
those reforms were made with the */motive/* of benefiting a race of 
people, it violated the /Washington v. Davis/ standard of disadvantaging 
a race of people (in the case of those reforms, white people) and having 
a racial motive (to benefit Blacks and other people of color). So with 
this tack, the old practices of overt racism are increasingly rising to 
the surface in Amerika, led by conservative politicians.

Racism and racist terror are and always have been manufactured and 
legitimized by the system, perpetuated throughout society through their 
institutions of power, and serve the purpose of polarizing the masses 
and playing the oppressed against each other—to divide and divert 
everyone’s attention away from the true exploiters and oppressors at the 
top who run the entire system.

I am a politically active, imprisoned communist Black man, who opposes 
and struggles against racist and capitalist exploitation and oppression. 
I have been profiled as a “terrorist threat” in turn, and transferred 
between six state prison systems in nine years, confined */invariably/* 
to prisons and prison systems that have particular notoriety for racist 
conditions. The system not the people is at the root of creating, 
spreading, manipulating, exploiting and perpetuating racism. It is */we 
the people/* who must eradicate this decadent capitalist system that 
feeds off and causes untold death, destruction, and conflicts among the 
people by playing up racial divisions and conflicts. Need the picture be 
made any clearer?

Dare to struggle,

Dare to win!

All Power to the People!


/Kevin Johnson, A787991, /
/Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 45699/
/Lucasville OH 45699./


------------------------------------------------------------------------

^^[1] <#_ftnref1>Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Political Struggle in the 
Teeth of Prison Reaction: From Virginia to Oregon” (2013), available at 
/rashidmod.com/

^^[2] <#_ftnref2>See the Ruiz v. Estelle and Ruiz v. Johnson series of 
rulings in the U.S. District Courts for Texas and the 5th Circuit Court 
of Appeals.

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863-9977
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