A week following the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina where a man gunned down nine individuals at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church, a string of fires had begun across the South. As of today, and according to Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominately black churches have been hit with fires. Three confirmed arson, the others under investigation by the FBI and local authorities.
When these fires originally started no big news stations were covering them the way they probably should have. The fires started a week after the shooting and my first encounter with information about it was a post on Tumblr with screenshots of tweets and links to some articles. After looking more into it, I was amazed this kind of thing wasn’t across national media especially after a massacre like the one in Charleston.
As news stations began to pick the story up, they weren’t exactly talking about the devastation. CNN posted an article titled “Why are black church fires associated with acts of hate?” with the piece going on to talk about how society is hardwired to think anything regarding black people must automatically be considered a hate crime. It isn’t confirmed either way whether or not it was a hate crime, but CNN seems to want to eliminate any possibility of it being such.
Late Sunday June 21st, College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Knoxville, TN had their church set on fire alongside with their church van, both confirmed arson. Someone seemed to have set fire to the hay bales near the building. The van was used to assist in many of the community outreach programs, they had only gotten the van six months prior. The local authorities say though it is confirmed arson, they will not be investigating further as to whether or not it was a hate crime.
Early Tuesday morning, June 23rd, around 4:30 am, God’s Power Church of Christ of Macon, Georgia caught fire. Reason for the fire has not yet been confirmed, but fire officials made a statement saying that they believe the fire to have been set.
Later that same Tuesday night Briar Creek Road Church of Charlotte, North Carolina was set fire, causing an estimated $250,000 in damage. It took more than 75 fire fighters working over an hour to get this fire under control. The flames engulfed the new education wing that was to house a summer program not even a week later. Luckily no one was hurt, and they were able to find another location to continue the program. But altogether the loss was large and it’s being investigated as a hate crime.
More churches in South Carolina and Ohio have had reported church fires and are being investigated. Altogether, the churches that have been victim to these fires whether arson or accidents, they’re all predominately black churches. Since the 1950’s, these fires bring the number of violent attacks on black churches up to the 90’s.
People turn to religion as a source of comfort. Churches are a community and a safe haven for so many people and to come to terms with the fact that not even places of worship are safe anymore, it comes as no surprise that churchgoers are fearful. Especially in the south right now. Until the FBI and local authorities can confirm whether or not all the fires were purposeful, who would start them and why, the fear will not falter.