A family in Louisiana is outraged after they were told they could not bury a Black family member because the cemetery was for "whites-only."

Karla Semien told local news outlet KLFY10 and The Washington Post that she was astonished when she arrived at Oaklin Springs Baptist Cemetery in Oberlin, Louisiana, to buy a burial plot for her husband, 55-year-old Darrell Semien, and was told he could not be buried there because he was Black.

She explained in a Facebook post that she went to the cemetery with her children and was speaking with the overseer at Oaklin Springs Baptist Cemetery about burying Darrell. One of her white sons was with her but then some of her other children, who are Black, got out of the car and joined them. 

The overseer immediately stopped the conversation after seeing the Black children and said there would be a problem.

“First me and one of my other sons got out of the car when she drove up, and he’s white, and she said she was sorry for our loss, and I told her, ‘Thank you.' And before I could say anything else, the rest of them started coming out of the car, and she looked at them, and then she looked at me and says, ‘We’re going to have to have a discrepancy.’ She said, ‘We’re not going to be able to sell you a plot,'” Karla recounted. 

She told The Washington Post that the woman said to her, “Oh, we’re going to have a dispute. We can’t sell you a plot. This is a Whites-only cemetery. There are no coloreds here.”

Their children were enraged, with one storming off and another beginning to cry. 

“Are you joking? I couldn’t believe I was even hearing the words she said,” Karla recounted.

Darrell was a police officer with the Reeves Police Department and a deputy with the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office for more than 15 years. In addition to seven of his own children and a grandchild, he and Karla were foster parents for 16 years, helping to raise 72 children. 

“He was good enough to protect you, being a police officer all these years but he wasn’t good enough to be laid to rest in your cemetery?” Karla told The Washington Post, which added that Darrell's last wish was to be buried near his old workplace in Oberlin. 

He was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in December which led to kidney failure and a stroke. He had been placed in a hospice where he died on Sunday. 

“His main duty was protect and serve. He didn’t put his badge on and say, ‘I’m only going to protect the Blacks because they’re Blacks. I’m just leaving white people out of it.’ No. He protected and served everybody no matter what the color is,” his daughter Kimberly said of her father in an interview with KLFY10. 

Karla shared a copy of the contract that Oaklin Springs Baptist Cemetery gave her with KLFY10, showing that there is a section of the contract that specifically stipulates that they only accept “remains of white human beings.”

Creig Vizena, the cemetery board president, apologized profusely in interviews with The Washington Post and KLFY10, telling both that on Thursday, the board met and removed the language from the contract.

"I'm still very ashamed of what happened. Who wouldn't be?" he told KATC. 

When asked how the cemetery could allow language like that in a legal contract in 2021, he said nobody ever noticed it since the cemetery was created in the 1950s. 

“I’m sorry I have no better explanation for it than that. I can’t answer a question that I don’t know the answer to. I refuse to speculate on it. I just know that it was wrong and now it’s right. I apologized, and I’m still apologizing to those people. I am so sorry that this happened,” Vizena told KLFY10.

Vizena said the overseer who told the family that it was "whites only" was an 80-year-old family member of his and had been "relieved of her duties."

To make matters worse, Vizena told the family that he thought the contract they signed with the “remains of white human beings” line was legally binding so he still could not offer them a plot. Instead, he offered them "one of my four plots.”

The family was disgusted and left, questioning how it was possible that the cemetery could have left language like that in a modern contract. 

“It’s not possible. If that cemetery had been there that long, that many years, I’m sure. I mean people die every day, and Oberlin has a lot of colored people out here. I know there had to be family who went out there,” Kimberly said.

Karla said her children "are going to remember for the rest of their life that their father couldn’t be buried in that cemetery because he is Black.”

Karla said the family is permanently scarred from the incident, and as they searched for other cemeteries to bury Darrell, their first question was always, "Are Black people allowed to be buried in your cemetery?”

“People need to know. It’s just not right. For the rest of my kids’ life, they are not going to hear anything. Any apologies. They’re not going to hear anything that anybody says except my dad couldn’t be buried there because he’s Black. That’s the only thing that’s going to stick in their heads for the rest of their life and mine too,” Karla said. 

“It was just so much a slap in the face, a punch in the gut. It was just belittling him. You know that we can’t bury him because he’s Black,” Karla added.

Darrell will be buried in Sonnier Cemetery in Oberlin on Saturday, January 30. 

For hundreds of years, white communities across the country denied Black people the right to be buried in the same cemeteries as them. The trend was made illegal after the Shelley v. Kraemer Supreme Court decision in 1948. But even after that case, cemeteries still denied Black people in a number of states, according to Atlas Obscura. 

"My dad wasn't any man, he was a phenomenal man," Darrell's daughter Shayla 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."