Estherwood, LA sounds like a really nice place.
Katrina refugees? Not in our backyard, insists 'racist' town
IKE all good folk in Louisiana, the people of Estherwood were horrified by what they saw on their televisions as hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents were rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
They sympathised with families who were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
But when the true test came and the government came knocking for Estherwood's help, the milk of human kindness turned sour.
At a meeting yesterday, local officials rejected proposals that idle land beside their airstrip be turned into a government-funded sanctuary for 600 evacuee families.
"We are not interested in any of that kind of activity in our parish," said Cecilia Broussard, chair of the Acadian Parish Police Jury, the board that oversees local affairs.
The move has prompted allegations of racism against Estherwood, a blue-collar farming community with just one police officer.
Of its 600 residents, 94 per cent are white. The evacuees are 90 per cent black.
Jury member John Humble said people were against the idea because the venue might itself be prone to flooding and local infrastructure could not support the influx. The parish should reject the idea "so the people of my district can sleep at night", he said.
"What would we do with 1,500 people out there in trailer houses?" he said.
"We don't have the teachers, we don't have the classrooms, we don't have law enforcement, the sheriff doesn't have the resources."
But colleague Alton Stevenson complained: "They can say what they want from the lip, but from the heart we all know it's a racial thing. It's all about putting a bunch of black people out there.
"If the evacuees were white, people would praise the idea, saying it would bring more money for the community."
Ron Lawson, president of the local airport commission, also believes concerns about infrastructure do not add up.
"People talk about 'help your neighbour' but when it comes down to it, they don't want to.
"It's pretty sickening. Hopefully one day we will not be in a situation where we are looking for help from someone else."
Some are doing their bit, however. At Estherwood Elementary School, principal Johnette Leleux has welcomed seven evacuee children from New Orleans, some of them black, into her classes and also joined in a "penny drive" that raised £385 for disaster relief.