There’s an old saying that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it and, in the wake of the recent church shooting down in Charleston, we are seeing a repeat of a very ugly and hateful time in our collective history.
Church burnings. Now, these aren’t new; in fact, they go as far back as the Civil War years, though the most famous case was the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama by a group of white supremacists.
The burning of Black churches is especially heinous because the churches were, and are, are targeted for their role in the Black community, as a gathering place, a safe place, a place of worship.
In the week after those nine people were murdered at Emanuel AME Church six churches, with predominately black congregations, all across the South have been burned, and three of those fires are being investigated as suspicious.
And for anyone who doesn’t think that these burnings are racially motivated, what was the big discussion after the shootings in Charleston? The Confederate flag; the removal of that flag. That flag that has for the last one-hundred-fifty years signified hate and racism in the South, and once it became clear that most Southerners want those flags removed — though not forgotten because it is a part of history — Black churches began to burn again in the South.
The first fire was June 21, when someone set bales of hay on fire outside the College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Knoxville, Tennessee; the church sustained minor damage.
Then on June 23, God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia caught fire, and when firefighters arrived on scene they found the front doors wired shut. That fire was ruled arson, but was not classified as a hate crime, perhaps because it was just the second such church burning.
The very next day, June 24, Charlotte, North Carolina’s Briar Creek Road Baptist Church was burned; the building sustained $250,000 worth of damage with the main building demolished by the blaze. It has also been ruled as arson.
On June 26, the Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina burned down and there is no reason, or cause, for the blaze.
There were two other church fires — Fruitland Presbyterian in Tennessee and Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church in Florida — but authorities believe those fires were caused by lightning or electrical wires, though they are still investigating.
We have come so far in this country — just last week gay and lesbian Americans gained a huge foothold in being equal in this country — and yet we have also taken a huge step back with these church burnings and the pro-Confederate flag rallies, as under-attended as they may be.
There is one way, and, for me, one way only to fight racism in this country: knock it off. Stop it when you hear it. When someone makes an idiotic joke, remind them that a lunatic in Charleston might have also laughed at the joke before he killed nine people; when people say ‘they’ or ‘them,’ or even worse, ‘those people,’ remind them that we are all Americans and we don’t have the time or the need or the desire, to take a step back.
The best way to stop racism, and stop church burnings, and hopefully, stop lunatics with guns, is to say something, with your voice, your actions and your vote.
Say something. Do something.