Divide & Conquer: Whites In Louisiana Town Seek Secession From Poorer Black Neighbors

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December 9, 2013 ‐ By Ann Brown
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Talk about regressing. Whites in a Louisiana neighborhood want to secede from black people in the area.

It all started when there was a push by the community to establish an independent public school district. To do so, the community has to become its own city. And it seems the Village St. George community in Louisiana has now collected almost half the signatures to do just that. “The southern unincorporated portion of East Baton Rouge Parish is petitioning its 107,262 residents to form a local governing body, potentially creating Louisiana’s fifth largest municipality,” reports The Huffington Post.

“First and foremost, people want better schools, but what they recognize is that we can have a great city as well,” Norman Browning, one of the incorporation campaign organizers, told The Advocate.

But here’s the problem. The new city will basically be all white, with district lines leaving out the black residents of the current community. As HuffPo reports, the campaign is not being met with universal support since it feeds into longstanding divisions of class and race. “Many people are suggesting that the real goal of incorporation supporters is to put some distance between the better-off, mainly white, suburban St. George and the financially struggling, mainly black, urban Baton Rouge,” writes the website.

Take a look at the figures and you see where the concern about race comes into play. The new proposed city would be “approximately 70 percent white, 23 percent black, and 4 percent Asian. Compare this to the City of Baton Rouge which is a majority minority city; the population is 55 percent black, 40 percent white, and 3 percent Asian,” according to a Dec. 1 report by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

Prior to this, the citizens of St. George have repeatedly tried to establish their own public school district. They have been rejected by the Louisiana Legislature because they live in an unincorporated area.

“Residents of the unincorporated areas provide substantial tax revenues to the East Baton Rouge Parish General Fund, which helps fund public services for all parish residents,” reports HuffPo. And actually two of the largest sources of tax revenue in Louisiana — the commercial areas of Perkins Rowe and the Mall of Louisiana — are within the borders of the proposed new city of St. George. So if St. George does secede, the East Baton Rouge Parish General Fund would collect roughly $85 million less. This would hurt funding for police, special education and child welfare programs.

The division between the two areas may have been exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane hit, East Baton Rouge Parish accepted more than 200,000 displaced New Orleans residents, the majority of whom were black and settled in the northern, urban regions.

The new city of St. George would be one of the wealthiest in Louisiana.

“Kind of amazing that after we go in and make all of these improvements and bring Baton Rouge up to greater standards, somebody would choose to try to separate us. This will be a failed movement,” Mayor Melvin Kip Holden of the city of Baton Rouge said, according to WBRZ.

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