Dredlocks and “Chee-Wee”

At a press conference earlier this month St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain called displaced New Orleanians "trash," and "animals," and stated that, "if you're gonna walk the streets of St. Tammany Parish with dreadlocks and chee-wee hairstyles, then you can expect to get a visit from a sheriff's deputy."

St. Tammany Parish, to the north across lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans is one of the most affluent areas in Louisiana. Throughout the 1990s it has experienced more economic growth than most parts of the state. It's mostly a suburban landscape. It's 87% white in a state that is only 63% white. And it's apparently policed by a racist Sheriffs department that intends to keep blacks and poor people out.

Strain seems to be convinced that hurricane Katrina has washed legions of mostly black underclass criminals ashore into his backyard. "For some reason New Orleans chooses to coddle criminals in that area that tend to get away with a great deal. We will not coddle that trash in St. Tammany Parish. If they come to St. Tammany Parish, we're going to pursue them, we're going to arrest them, our prosecutors are going to prosecute them and our judges are going to convict them," said Strain in response to questions about a recent high profile murder involving victims and presumably perpetrators from New Orleans.

As if to underscore the racial divide, a Deborah Knorr of Mandeville (a small St. Tammany town with a black population not even breaking 5% of its total) writes:

"Most of us [One has to guess who the "us" she refers to is. I'm betting that it's her friends and neighbors, again, mostly affluent white people] moved here to get away from city crime. We don't want it! If anyone in our parish is afraid to go out because they wear dreadlocks or "Chee-Wee" hairstyles, maybe they have something to hide."

Knorr also links what she perceives to be a declining quality of life in St. Tammany with those displaced by Katrina: "We are overrun with traffic, litter and rapidly losing our beautiful trees to make way for more subdivisions and shopping malls to accommodate the overspill from Katrina."

Did it ever occur to Knorr - someone who "moved" to St. Tammany from the city - that those subdivisions and shopping malls were built for her ilk?

The St. Tammany branch of the NAACP is now calling for a federal investigation into Strain's comments noting that they constitute racial profiling. Strain is remaining defiant, and it appears that many of his constituents are going to support him. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds. Hopefully we still hold the high ground and this sort of overt and ignorant racism won’t be tolerated.

Finally, if anyone knows what the hell “Chee-Wee” even means, please let me know.

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