A Louisiana widow says she was stunned when a cemetery denied a burial plot for her husband, a black sheriff’s deputy — claiming it was for “whites only.”
Karla Semien said she tried to make arrangements at Oaklin Springs Cemetery for her spouse, Allen Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Semien, after he died Sunday from cancer, news station KPLC reported.
“It was in their by-laws that the cemetery was ‘whites only,’” Karla told the outlet. “I just kinda looked at her and she said, ‘There’s no coloreds allowed.’”
Darrell’s daughter, Shayla, said the woman at the cemetery showed them a contract, which outlined “the right of burial of the remains of white human beings.”
“She had this paperwork in her hand that she said was drawn up 70-plus years ago,” Shayla told news station KATC.
“If we really wanted to have him buried here, we would have to get board approval because he was a colored man.”
His family said they were shocked not only that the discriminatory rule was part of the cemetery’s contract, but also by how the woman handled the situation.
“[She said] just blatantly, with no remorse, ‘I can’t sell you a plot for your husband,’” another one of Darrell’s daughters, Kimberly Curly, told the news station.
“Everybody dies. They bleed the same. You die. You’re the same color. Death has no color, so why should he be refused?” she added.
His widow said she had only gone to the cemetery per her husband’s wishes since he wanted to be laid to rest close to home.
“And to be told this is like we were nothing. He was nothing? He put his life on the line for them,” Karla said.
Creig Vizena, president of the Oaklin Springs Cemetery Association, said he was “very ashamed” to learn of the racist practice, which has been in the contract since the 1950s, when the burial place opened.
“I promise you, it will be fixed,” Vizena told KATC.
He said he takes “full responsibility” for not previously reading the contract.
“It never came up. I take full responsibility for that. I’ve been the president of this board for several years now,” he said.
The cemetery said it fired the employee who turned away the deputy’s family, KATC reported.
The Semien family said they’ve been offered a plot, but they will be burying Darrell elsewhere.
“My dad wasn’t any man, he was a phenomenal man,” Shalya told KATC. “He was a police officer in this same community for 15 years. He was denied a place to lay because of the color of his skin.”