The Jim Crow Soft-Shoe Segregationists of St. George

Tom Gogola in The Baffler (via Bookforum):

Located Imagein the suburban settlement of St. George, the Mall of Louisiana—and most particularly, the millions in tax revenue it generates—was, until recently, ground zero in a fiercely pitched battle over the economic, political, and racial makeup of Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital city. This May, the Baton Rouge city council voted to annex the mall firmly within the city’s borders—thus claiming for the majority-black city one of the key economic prizes that had been in the sights of a new cohort of affluent (and mostly white) would-be municipal secessionists. But that setback for the region’s secessionist forces is unlikely to slow the momentum of their movement, which thrives on a powerful compound of free-market development stratagems, movement-conservative swagger, and new-millennial racial animus…

Throughout the South, rich municipalities have begun to raise the specter of secession—despite the associations that carry over from the last big push by a privileged white Southern elite to carve out a brave new civic destiny for itself, during the years 1861 to 1865. Similar movements to inaugurate breakaway townships and school districts have lately taken off in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.

But the St. George effort is different. For starters, it furnishes a detailed case study in how the unvarnished rhetoric of white reaction has been repackaged as a sunny faith in the mystical healing powers of school choice. And it has drawn a corps of politically prominent supporters who are long-standing entrepreneurs of far-right reaction.

Read the rest here.