One of the events you may have missed in the past week and a half is the burning of eight black churches in 10 days. Starting on June 21st, black churches have burned in Knoxville, TN; Macon, GA; Gibson County, TN; Charlotte, NC; Elyria, OH; Tallahassee, FL; Warrenville, SC; and most recently in Greeleyville, SC. At least three of the burnings have been confirmed as arson.
In response to these acts, the Southern Poverty Law Center has called for congressional hearings into domestic terrorism, which is being supported by the NAACP. #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches is now trending on Twitter, and the NAACP has warned black churches to be on alert.
Just over two weeks ago, Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and shot and killed nine people. Less than two weeks ago, the family of Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurt, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend Dr. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, and Susie Jackson gathered to mourn and bury their loved ones. Despite that tragedy, there are still some people in the United States who think it is right to target black people. It is disgusting.
The targeting of black churches is also a form of terrorism. It is literally meant to inspire terror and to get a population to sit down and shut up. It is letting them know that they aren’t safe anywhere, not even in their houses of worship. It is telling them they have no place to run or hide, that they will be found and dealt with.
Our government needs to respond to these acts as terrorism. They need to let the arsonists and would-be arsonists of the United States know that they will be found and brought to justice and experience the full weight of the law. We cannot allow them to go unfound. We cannot allow them to go unpunished. We cannot wait another 20 years for someone to burn down the same church. And we cannot wait to be “sure” that these were hate crimes (i.e., someone confesses). We must have enough respect for the black community to see an attack on them as a hate crime. We must be unforgiving. We must show that the black community is an American community indivisible from the whole and fully warranting our protection and esteem. If the government can show that, if it can let the country know that they prioritize and protect the black community, maybe we can stop these arsons before more than a building burns.