Burning Churches

In a little over a week, 8 Historically Black Churches have burned to the ground; of those 8 churches, only three of them have been confirmed to be cases of arson. In that same time span, there has been debate concerning the flying of Confederate flags from State Capitol buildings and some states have taken them down largely due to honoring the memory of a Black State Senator who was killed by a Confederate flag toting terrorist.

As these fires have raged, there has been virtual silence both from mainstream American media outlets and the Department of Justice. This same media had wall to wall coverage of the uprisings in Baltimore and Ferguson, many of them virtually holding wakes for a burning CVS building, yet when the institution set on fire by arsonists is in a Black community and the community has ownership of said building, these same media outlets remain conspicuously silent. This double standard is no surprise, but it is no less troubling because of the message that it carries with it, which is ultimately that what is actively owned and or operated principally by the Black community is never worth the same outrage or lament as that which is actively owned and or operated by the Whites who inhabit and control much of America.

When Black people in righteous indignation set fire to an intrusion on their community they are almost invariably cast as thugs, animals or worse; but when White people set fire to anything, including churches, they are not subject to the same terminology. They are often treated with kid gloves with descriptions such as rowdy and rambunctious, terms better suited to five year old boys than grown men and women who knowingly set property ablaze for the illustrious sporting events which are obviously of the utmost importance to the American public. There is no starker line than this that can be drawn, use fire as a form of protest, bad. Use fire as a form of temper tantrum or celebration, overlooked. This speaks rather loudly to the devaluation of both Black people and righteous Black rage in America pretty much since we first arrived here against our will in slave ships. Nat Turner was a danger and a threat to White sensibility, John Brown was praised by many abolitionists as a hero. Both used violent methods to accomplish a goal. Nat Turner’s was personal and collective freedom for himself and those who followed him. John Brown’s was to demonstrate the length to which men and women ought to be willing to go for others. In this there is a degree of freedom and agency that is still denied to Black rage today.

The riots and fires of Watts, Baltimore and Ferguson still speak of the same fire that Nat Turner set amongst White sensibilities and the riots of White sports fans still speaks to the agency which John Brown possessed, however those “revelers” do not have any higher purpose in mind. Neither do these terrorists who set churches aflame in the wake of being told that you can no longer fly the flag of White Supremacy from the Capitol buildings of Southern states. Their only reason is the same reason which White terrorists bombed and burned churches in the 1960's, they are scared of what happens when they lose their sovereignty over Black people, even if that sovereignty is only symbolic.

Until Black property and Black lives are valued by the American Media as much as White property is valued by the American Media, we will continue to see this ambitious coverage of burning CVS’s and an outpouring of concern for Black people who are “destroying their neighborhoods” whilst there is little to no concern about the Black institution which is set afire by agitators and terrorists.

Black churches, it seems much like the Black lives they often contain and help piece together, do not matter in America or to the American Media. But they do matter. So, as the Department of Justice concerns itself with the burning CVS, we’re still left to ask ourselves: Who is burning Black churches?