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aerial of oil industry near Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Source: travelview / Getty

The whitest section of Baton Rouge, the Black-majority Louisiana state capital, is now the newly-incorporated city of St. George. The state Supreme Court overturned the rulings of lower courts in what advocates for the change are excited about while others, including the Baton Rouge’s NAACP chapter, are calling it a modern-day secession.

According to WGXA, Norman Browning, the St. George Transition District Chairman, called last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling “a historical and exciting day for the City of St George citizens” and vowed to “build an efficient, productive, and vibrant city while contributing to a thriving East Baton Rouge Parish.”

Well, here’s what the NAACP had to say about all of that:

“The St. George plan poses significant risks to our education system, threatens the continuity of critical programs, and challenges community representation. The creation of a new municipality introduces considerable uncertainty around funding allocation for our schools, jeopardizing the cornerstone of our community’s future: education.”

For the record, this decision was the culmination of a yearslong battle between proponents of the new city and opponents, many of whom view the move as a microcosm of recourse-siphoning colonization. Up until now, the latter group was winning that battle in the courts.

Here’s a little history on the matter reported by the Advocate:

Baton Rouge leaders took St. George organizers to court in 2019 over the proposed city, just two weeks after 54% of voters living within the proposed city’s limits voted “yes” on the incorporation in a November election.

Baton Rouge leaders argued in their petition — and had argued for years leading up to the election — that the new city would financially cripple Baton Rouge’s city-parish services and force layoffs by taking away an estimated $48.3 million in annual tax revenue. They also argued that St. George’s proposed budget was inaccurate and that it’d actually operate with a deficit.

Twice the courts have sided with Baton Rouge and shot down the proposed city, once in 2022 when a district judge ruled that St. George couldn’t operate with a balanced budget and was “unreasonable,” and again last year when the First Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that St. George organizers hadn’t followed state law for getting on the election ballot.

The fight for St. George preceded the 2019 election by a decade — it originally started out as a movement to create a separate, independent school district before evolving over the course of several years into a full campaign to create a new city.

Organizers for St. George, who reside in the predominantly White and affluent Southeast corner of the parish, said for years that the city-parish government and school system were poorly run and that they wanted more localized control of tax dollars.

St. George is comprised of 68,000 residents, only about 12% of whom are Black, which is why opponents have argued that the incorporation proposal was essentially segregation by another name and inherently racist. The Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t really address whether or not the move is racist, the justices simply argued that the St. George organizers followed the proper steps for incorporation and that it would provide its residents with proper public services.

But the question remains: At what cost to other Baton Rouge residents?