Are the burnings of Black churches meant to incite fear?


Charlotte church fire

Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, burns on June 24.

By Carmen Glover

When the Confederate flag was brought down with pomp and circumstance in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, July 10, after contentious debates in the Legislature, Dylann Roof, whose social media accounts featured him posing with the flag and guns, lost again.

Roof wanted to start a race war when he sat quietly through Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, on Wednesday, June 18, before casually standing to his feel and unleashing a barrage of bullets into the bodies of trusting, defenseless parishioners, who gave him refuge in the Lord’s house.

Mt Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina burns to the ground.

Mt Zion AME Church in Greeneville, South Carolina burns to the ground on June 30.

“You have to go. You rape our women and take over our country,” Roof allegedly said, as he sought strength through terrorizing church-goers with a hail of bullets. Where Roof failed, it appears, according to published reports, other terrorists have taken up the mantle.

During the week of Monday, June 22 to Friday, June 26, six Black churches have been set on fire, some burning to the ground, in Southern states including, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio.

College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, TN, burns on June 22.

College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, TN, burns on June 22.

Among the churches that were burned are Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina, which burned to the ground on Friday, June 26; Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, which burned on Wednesday, June 24; Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee, which also burned on Wednesday, June 24; God’s Power Church of Christ, in Macon, Georgia which burned on June, College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, which burned on Monday, June 22 and Mt. Zion AME Church in Greenville, SC, which burned on June 30.

While investigators take their time to unearth all the possible clues before labeling the spate of fires arson, one thing is clear: The aim of the perpetrators seem to be squarely focused on inciting fear in the hearts of African-Americans to soothe the minds of race-baiters who feel threatened by what they perceive as “Blacks taking over the country,” a sentiment that has become pervasive.

Baptist church in Elyria, Ohiio, June 17

Baptist church in Elyria, Ohio, burns on June 17

Speaking on WABC’s public affairs program “Here and Now,” with host Sandra Bookman on Sunday, July 12, Rev Marcellus Morris, pastor of St. Luke A.M.E. Church in New York was blunt in his assessment, stating:

“Not all people are racist but people’s true colors are coming out. We live in a time where people have been hiding but not they are coming out. Some people can’t get over the fact that we have a black president.”

The solution, said Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, who participated in the discussion, is activist ministry.

charleston victims

Nine victims who were murdered during Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, have all been laid to rest. SC Governor Nikki Haley used nine pens to sign the executive order authorizing the removal of the Confederate Flag, in honor of the victims.

“Black churches and Black people are being attacked so anti-racism work needs to be the cornerstone of our faith.” Lewis referenced another horrific act of church terrorism that still haunts her.

“I remember watching the news with my mother when the four little girls were killed in the church in Birmingham,” she said, explaining that not much has changed with regard to racist sentiment and action, which is why activist ministry in always important.

Four black girls were killed when white terrorists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

Four black girls were killed when white terrorists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

In the Black community, church interaction is seen as the bedrock of the community, the beacon of faith and hope. Church serves as the place where people go for comfort and solace. It is viewed as the institution that undergirds the principles by which children are raised, supervised and nurtured. And yes, church can be the source of pain and anguish when abuse is hidden and victims go voiceless. So when a decision is made by a person, or a group of persons, to venture into a church and set fire to a place of worship for one specific community then the message is being sent that “You are not safe anywhere,” and “We will destroy your symbol of hope.”

Terrorizing Blacks by burning down, bombing, or otherwise defacing their churches is hardly a new phenomenon in the history of the racial culture of Blacks across the globe and African-Americans in particular. Prior to  Roof desecrating  the Emanuel AME Church is Charleston on June 18, he stated in his online manifesto that he targeted the church because of its “history.”

Emmanuel AME Church

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where 9 church members were massacred by racist terrorist Dylann Roof, who wanted to start a race war.

Yet while the church has been a refuge to members and non-members alike, it’s central role in the lives of Blacks should not be taken lightly, despite the utter depravity that would inspire the spate of burnings that have destroyed the buildings, but not the faith of those who view the Black church as a symbol of peace, hope, tranquility and solace.

As more attention is being focused on this disturbing pattern of intimidation and terrorism, more members of the media are paying attention to this situation to see what evidence the investigators uncover and whether anyone will ultimately be charged and brought to justice. One thing will remain constant, however, and that is the Black community’s unwavering faith and the solace that is drawn from interactions in church.–