Racial Discrimination Even In Death The Case Of Louisiana Cemetery


When society is finally moving forward from discrimination, incidents of color or racial abuse still persists. It is really shocking to imagine that a person can face such issues even in death. 

Karla Semien was visiting a cemetery to book a place for his late husband’s burial. But to her surprise, the place was denied because of her race. It seemed as if she had traveled back to the 1950s.

Racial Discrimination Even In Death The Case Of Louisiana Cemetery

Her husband, Darell Semien, died on 24th January. Darell Semien served as sheriff’s deputy for Allen Parish, Louisiana. He was diagnosed with cancer in December.

Karla Semien was looking for a burial plot in Oaklin Springs Cemetery in Oberlin. That could be the final resting place of her husband. But to her shock, Semien was turned away from the cemetery and denied a burial plot as her husband was an African American.  

Racial Discrimination Even In Death The Case Of Louisiana Cemetery

Semien highlighted the incident on Facebook. She pointed out that she met a lady at the cemetery who told her that the cemetery serves as a burial ground only for white people. She even stretched out a paperback mentioning the same. Semien felt embarrassed before her children and felt as if it was a slap on her face for belonging to a different race.

The president of the Oaklin Springs Cemetery Association, Creig Vizena, clarified the situation. CNN affiliate KATC was told by Vizena that the woman involved in this matter was in her 80s. However, after the incident, she was relieved of her duties at the cemetery. He also expressed his deep regrets over the racial incident and claimed to be upset about it.

Vizena also clarified that the cemetery was not aware of the age-old sale documents dated back to the 1950s. The documents claimed “the right of burial of the remains of white human beings.” Since no such issues were faced earlier, the sale document’s statement was not ever checked or known to them.

Vizena took full responsibility for the shameful event. He admitted that being the Oaklin Springs Cemetery Association president, he should have been aware of such readings on the sale document.

KPLC later reported that the Oaklin Springs Cemetery Association board members held a meeting on Thursday to remove that racial clause from the sale document.

Though Vizena apologized to the Semiens over the incident and even offered a burial plot at the cemetery for a respectful burial of Darrel Semiens, the damage was irreparable. Karla Semiens obviously declined the offer.  

Cemetery segregation is one of the dark histories in the US. Some of the radicals still persist to this day. Such incidents come to light now and then. 

But many steps are being taken to remove such racial issues, especially on burial grounds. A chain-link fence that used to separate the White burial section from the Black burial section in the city of Waco, Texas, was ordered to be removed in 2016. A similar separation that was present in a cemetery was removed last year. 

In 1948, a landmark verdict was made by United States Supreme Court in Shelley v. Kraemer case. The Supreme Court ordered to outlaw racial covenants in housing. 

Citing the Shelley v. Kraemer case of 1948, the ACLU of Louisiana told the Oaklin Springs Cemetery Association to carefully omit any “Whites only” references from its bylaws. As per the 1948 decision taken by the Supreme Court of the US, any such clauses are outlawed.

ACLU wrote in a letter that it is unacceptable and unconscionable that she or any family should face blatant racial discrimination, especially during grief and mourning.


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