A week after nine people were assassinated at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a string of fires at Black churches have occurred in four Southern states and Ohio, according to The Huffington Post.
At least three of the fires are the subjects of arson investigations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that monitors hate crimes in America.
The fires come as the nation tries to heal after accused AME gunman Dylann Roof, 21, was charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime at Emanuel Church over a week ago.
President Obama last week delivered a powerful eulogy at the funeral of the church’s pastor Clementa Pinckney about the enduring stain of racism that could have led to the shootings.
From The Huffington Post:
An arsonist set fire to the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Monday. The following day, God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, was gutted by flames. And on Wednesday, Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was deliberately set ablaze, causing more than $250,000 in damage.
“We are still talking about this same issue and this is 2015,” he said. “We all have to consider what else do we need to do to actually be able to work together.”
As the Southern Poverty Law Center points out, the fires also come at a time when the debate surrounding the Confederate flag and its place in America is heating up. During Rev. Pinckney’s Friday funeral, President Obama called the flag a “reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.”
In his eulogy, Obama also noted that the Black church has historically been targeted by bombs, arson, and other terroristic tactics to impose a system of oppression on people of color. In doing so, the president suggested the attack on AME church was an attack on the very fabric of Black life.
“[The shooting] was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…The church is and always has been the center of African American life,” he said. “A place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.”
If the fires are indeed arson, we hope the suspects are arrested and brought to justice. Since slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, racists have attacked Black churches in an effort to thwart progress. But as posters declared at Rev. Pinckney’s funeral: “Wrong Church! Wrong People! Wrong Day!”
Roland Martin and the NewsOne Now Straight Talk Panel discuss the recent rash of Black church burnings. Is the Black church under attack? Watch this important NewsOne Now discussion in the video clip below.