How racist do you have to be to tell a widow you won’t bury her Black husband because a decades-old law says the cemetery is whites only? A Louisiana woman said she met someone who was just that racist and was shocked at how indifferent that person was in denying her late husband the right to be laid to rest in a place of his choosing.
From the Washington Post:
Before Darrell Semien died on Sunday of bladder cancer, the 55-year-old Black man left his family with a single dying wish: He wanted to be buried near their home in Oberlin, La., and close to his old stomping ground at the sheriff’s office.
So his widow, Karla, and their seven kids found a graveyard a few miles outside town, a quiet site surrounded by thick green forest. When they arrived Tuesday to take a look, she told The Washington Post, the overseer at Oaklin Springs Baptist Cemetery stopped them cold.
“Oh, we’re going to have a dispute. We can’t sell you a plot,” Semien recalled the woman saying. “This is a Whites-only cemetery. There are no coloreds here.”
The cemetery employee wasn’t identified but was fired, according to Creig Vizena, the cemetery’s president, who I like to think also told her to hop in her white supremacist time machine and take her ass back to 1950 where she belongs.
Seriously, there are plenty of people in America who are still just as racist as white folks were in the Jim Crow era, but you’d think most of them at least know that practicing segregation in the 21st century will lose them their jobs. Apparently, though, this person was unabashed in denying a Black man’s wish to be buried where he wanted to be.
“[She said] just blatantly, with no remorse, ‘I can’t sell you a plot for your husband,’” one of Semien’s daughters, Kimberly Curly, told KPLC 7. “Everybody dies. They bleed the same. You die. You’re the same color. Death has no color, so why should he be refused?”
“And to be told this is like we were nothing. He was nothing? He put his life on the line for them,” Karla said of her husband who was an Allen Parish sheriff’s deputy.
Karla also recalled that the woman “had this paperwork in her hand that she said was drawn up 70-plus years ago.
“If we really wanted to have him buried here, we would have to get board approval because he was a colored man,” she said.
Vizena told KPLC that he promised the cemetery’s old bylaw—which states that gravesites could only be used to bury “the remains of white human beings,” according to the Post—“will be fixed.” He said that before this incident that policy “never came up.”
“I take full responsibility for that,” he said. “I’ve been the president of this board for several years now.”
According to KPLC, officials for the cemetery changed its contractual bylaws in a meeting on Thursday night to allow anyone of any race to be buried there. The Semien family said they were offered a new plot at Oaklin Springs, but they’ve decided to bury their father and husband somewhere else.
So basically, in 2021, America’s legally racist past is still being corrected, and Black people can’t even die and be buried without being confronted by white supremacy.