It’s now become a hateful pattern: Six black churches burned in two weeks.
Black churches in the South are being intentionally torched and federal authorities are correctly investigating the burnings of places of worship as hate crimes.
In the weeks following a racist church massacre where nine African-American parishioners were shot dead by a white supremacist at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, six predominantly Black churches in Southern states have been burned.
What a shame – and how insidious — that despicable people are burning buildings where peaceful Black parishioners gather for spiritual services on Sundays and for prayer meetings during the week. But even more sickening is that the burning of Black churches didn’t begin two weeks ago – the burning dates back to the 1950s -and there have been nearly 100 torchings to date.
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups across America, South Carolina has 19 active hate groups. Dylann Roof, 21, who murdered the nine black people inside Emanuel AME Church last month was associated with a white supremacist movement. Roof is racist, sociopathic, and unapologetic –a chilling combination. He is a twisted soldier in a methodical campaign against African-Americans.
One of the neo-Confederate groups in South Carolina, League of the South, which has chapters in 15 other states, promotes slavery.
“Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery,” said Jack Kershaw, a League of the South board member, according to SPLC. “Where in the world are the Negroes better off today than in America?” The organization has also warned Black people that they would be defeated in a “race war,” according to SPLC.
Civil rights activists worry that more Black churches will be torched as white supremacist groups are gaining ground. The SPLC says since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 30 percent and there are currently 874 hate groups across the country. This surge, according to the SPLC, has been fueled by anger and fear, in part, over the election of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president.
So what can Black Americans do to protect historic houses of worship?
“The spike in church burnings in Southern states over the past few days requires our collective attention,” Cornell Brooks, president of the NAACP, said in a statement.
“When nine students of scripture lose their lives in a house worship, we cannot to turn a blind eye to any incident,” Brooks said. “For centuries, African-American churches have served as the epicenter of survival for many in the African-American community, as a consequence, these houses of faith have historically been the targets of violence. We will use every tool in our advocacy arsenal to preserve these beloved institutions.”
Even during this crisis, there is hope. The church burnings have prompted a group of young Muslims from across the country to raise money to help rebuild the churches.
Faatimah Knight, a 23-year-old theology student, started a campaign on LaunchGood to raise $50,000 to rebuild the churches. The initial goal for the campaign was only $10,000, but the group surpassed that mark in just 12 hours.
“The response has been overwhelmingly supportive,” she wrote. “There have been a few people who were confused about why Muslims would rebuild a church, but for the most part people are totally on board.”
According to media reports, there were at least 94 cases since the 1950s when Black churches across the country were intentionally burned by white supremacists. Between 1995 and 1996, more than 40 Black churches were burned in an 18-month period, which prompted Congress to pass the Church Arson Prevention Act.
“All houses of worship are sanctuaries… let’s unite to help our sisters and brothers in faith,” Knight wrote on the campaign’s website. “Supporting these churches hit me most as a Black person. It has been a challenging time to be black in America.”
Knight is spot on.
What do you think?