If you live or travel in the unincorporated part of Baton Rouge, just outside of city limits, you probably have seen the petitioners for a new city called St. George. It’s not “secession”, as the Huffington Post erroneously claimed. After all, you can’t “secede” from something you are not a part of to begin with. Nebraska can’t secede from Mexico, Canada can’t secede from the United States. In fairness, The Huffington Post isn’t the only site to make that claim. I’m sure it’s an honest mistake, but an annoying misuse of the word nonetheless.
I am a resident of Baton Rouge, inside “city limits”. I have no stake in whether St. George incorporates what is not incorporated, in fact, I personally stand to lose along with every citizen who actually lives in Baton Rouge. I’m guessing that the people over at Huffington Post and other National News outlets aren’t living here in Baton Rouge either, if they did, they would know it’s not so much about “rich white people fleeing poor black people”, as much as it is about people having the means to take care of their community. The City of Baton Rouge does not go into “city of St. George”, after all, it is outside of city limits. For the people of St. George area outside of Baton Rouge, that means certain benefits are missed.
But what Huffpo and other news outlets did get right, is the issue of money. Well they sort of got it right. The real issue is that Baton Rouge depends so much on a group of people while ignoring the economy of other areas. It’s been my observation over the years that Baton Rouge has an unhealthy imbalance. It’s a problem that has been going on long before the current city council and current mayor have been in office, but neither do they correct the problem. It is true that St George is predominantly white and what will be left is majority black, but it’s the issue of politics, not race, that divides the city.
For years the city has been trying to rejuvenate the downtown area, dumping massive amounts of money to get the economy moving, while ignoring the economy, roads, and lighting just north of downtown. And while the city ignores the economic needs of the people of North Baton Rouge, they ignore the educational needs of the people in the unincorporated areas of Baton Rouge.
For years people leaving the problems that Baton Rouge behind has been called “white flight”, a term that invokes racism. It’s easy to assume, after hearing the term “white flight”, that it is white people who simply don’t want to live around black people. This mischaracterization of why people flee the city of Baton Rouge allows people to ignore what’s really going on. As blacks moved up in economic status, they too moved away from the problem area. Would you suggests they simply do not want to live around black people either? But if both black and white people are moving away, fleeing, then perhaps it is a little absurd to suggest that racism is the ulterior motive.
What I have concluded, however, is that this issue is not about racism, but instead money. The city of Baton Rouge depends so much on tax revenue from the south side, the unincorporated area of Baton Rouge, and the opponents who cry racism do so because they have nothing to offer the people of St George. They offer no reason to stay and so they fall back into demagogeury, wrongfully accusing the people who want to incorporate with malicious terms.
I have come to the conclusion, that even in this time, even in the face of losing an unincorporated area of Baton Rouge, the opponents remain closed minded to other people’s ideas and won’t listen to the people in the unincorporated areas.
It’s with that in mind that I encourage the people in that community to sign the petition, to grab hold of your future. You can’t talk to people who are so closed minded that they automatically assume your intentions without hearing your reasons why. You can not build a Together Baton Rouge while demonizing a significant portion of Baton Rouge. They say that sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never harm me. While words shouldn’t harm the residents who live in the unincorporated area of Baton Rouge, I wouldn’t bet on them staying around to listen to more of it.