#WhoIsBurningBlackChurches

Recently, there have been several predominately black churches (and a couple other churches that are not predominately black) that have had massive fires cause significant damage. Phillip Jackson wrote about we know so far over at The Root and highlighted each church that has burned down so far.

Initial findings point to lightening as the cause of the fire in just one church in South Carolina but several of the other church fires appear to be arson. Within a week, there were five predominately black churches in the South that had been burnt down and arson was suspected in three of those cases. The FBI and other government agencies are looking into the church fires that have crossed over multiple state lines to see if there is a wave of hate crimes being targeted at predominately black churches. Alan Blinder and Richard Perez-Pena wrote an article about the lightening struck church in South Carolina for the New York Times and wrote that:

Investigators have found no evidence that any of the fires are connected and no indications of hate crimes. At least two were deliberately set… with two still of unclear origins.

Despite such assurances, the fires have sent a chill through black congregations that are well aware of a long history of their churches being targeted for violence by racists. As recently as the 1990s, there was a wave of dozens of arson fires at black churches, mostly in the South. (source)

I don’t go to church regularly and I’ve spent most of my life questioning faith. But I do know how important faith, community, and places of worship are for many people and the fact that so many churches have burned out in such a short time is terrifying and heartbreaking. Churches should be safe spaces, places to come together in community and to worship. But with the latest string of arson and violence, are there any truly safe spaces at this point?

The Twitter hashtag #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches has been calling not only on the media to start better reporting on this issue but to also bring attention to the fact that we do not know for sure how these fires started. And I think it’s important that as white people, we also call for an end to this violence and to answers about what has happened.

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