The Atlantic is reporting six black churches have been set on fire over the last week. The burnings are happening just days after nine people were murdered at a historic black church, Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, during Bible study. The burnings have happened at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC, Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenville, SC, College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Knoxville, TN, Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, TN and the Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida.
The burning of churches is as American as apple pie, and the burning of black churches is a recurring act of terrorism motivated by racists that believe in white supremacy. Attacking black churches is thought of as a way of attacking a core institution of the black community.
Bryce Covert of Thinkprogress.com reports:
“Black churches have frequently been targets of violence. Since 1956, there have been at least 91 incidents of shootings, bombings, arson, or vandalism against black churches, according to a tally by the Huffington Post. One particular incident stood out during the Civil Rights Movement, when four young girls were killed and 22 were injured at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
That’s likely a vast undercount, however, given that records from the 1970s and 1980s are scarce. There was a spike in violence in the 90s, with more than 30 black churches burned within 18 months in 1995 and 1996. That led to the passage of the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, which gave federal authorities more oversight of such crimes, increased sentencing, and reauthorized the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.
Violence continues today. In 2004, two men admitted to vandalizing the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Roanoke Virginia and causing $77,000 in damage. In 2008, three white men were convicted of burning down the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts to protest President Obama’s election. In 2010, a white man firebombed the Faith in Christ Church in Crane, Texas to get in with a white supremacist gang. And in 2013, two white teenagers started a fire at the New Holy Deliverance Outreach Ministry in Axton, Virginia.”
While many preachers have been up-in-arms over the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, many have been silent on this issue. We find it criminal and oxymoronic to ignore hate crimes like the burning of black churches while using major platforms to make hateful comments about marriage equality. We won’t even mention the radio silence on the black churches and church members being terrorized and killed in Kenya and Nigeria on regular basis. Shouldn’t there be outrage and action?
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.