TUPELO — A Mississippi RV park owner evicted an interracial couple because of the color of their skin, The Clarion-Ledger reports.
“Me and my husband, not ever in 10 years have we experienced any problem,” said Erica Flores Dunahoo, who is Hispanic and Native American and whose husband, a National Guardsman, is African-American. “Nobody’s given us dirty looks. This is our first time.”
More than a half-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred discrimination on the basis of race, Gene Baker acknowledged asking the interracial couple to leave his RV park near Tupelo.
Baker, who lives in Aberdeen, said he only did it because “the neighbors were giving me such a problem.”
The NAACP is investigating.
“Racial discrimination should be a thing of the past in Mississippi, considering our long history,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP.
With some state leaders expressing intolerance, “we can do no more than expect incidents like this to exist in the state of Mississippi,” he said.
Marriages between white and black Mississippians remained illegal in the state until 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out laws that barred interracial marriage. A year later, the Fair Housing Act made it illegal to refuse to rent to people on the basis of their "race, color, religion, sex or national origin."
In the decades since, cultural barriers have begun to fade.
In 2011, The New York Times featured Mississippi as having one of the nation’s fastest growing multiracial populations — up 70 percent between 2000 and 2010.
In February, Dunahoo, 40, and her 37-year-old husband, Stanley Hoskins, who have two children, were looking to rent an RV space when she contacted Baker. “We were trying to save money to get our life on track,” she said.
On Feb. 28, she arrived at the RV park and gave Baker a $275 check for rent for the month.
“He was real nice,” she said. “He invited me to church and gave me a hug. I bragged on him to my family.”
The next day, she said, Baker telephoned her and said, “Hey, you didn’t tell me you was married to no black man.”
She said she replied that she didn’t realize it was a problem.
“Oh, it’s a big problem with the members of my church, my community and my mother-in-law,” she quoted him as saying. “They don’t allow that black and white shacking.”
“We’re not shacking. We’re married,” she replied.
“Oh, it’s the same thing,” she quoted him as replying.
She said he told her, “You don’t talk like you wouldn’t be with no black man. If you would had come across like you were with a black man, we wouldn’t have this problem right now.”
She said she replied, “My husband ain’t no thug. He’s a good man. My husband has served his country for 13 years. He’s a sergeant in the National Guard.”
Hoskins called the situation “ludicrous.”
He and Dunahoo, who retained her last name after marriage, went to talk to Baker again.
She said she had “prayed and prayed” for Baker to change his mind.
Baker returned the $275 the couple paid, and they are relocating to another RV park where the rent is higher — $325 a month.
Dunahoo said she reported the matter to the NAACP because she believes Baker should not be allowed to turn away interracial couples. “I just want it to be where everybody is treating everybody equally."
Asked if he had a problem with a mixed-race couple, Baker replied, “Oh, no.”
He said his church lets interracial couples attend.
Dunahoo said he told her they could attend their church but “we’re not allowed to be members.”
Baker explained that if neighbors have a problem, “the best thing you can do is what the neighbors want to do.”
Asked if he would rent the RV space if another interracial couple showed up, he replied, “I’m closing it down, and that solves the problem.”