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Statement from Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity On recent African American church fires – July 2, 2015

The winds of change are not blowing very hard when it comes to attitudes about the Confederate flag. Thus, it may not be too surprising to see the rise of vicious and hateful acts of burning Black churches across the South. 20 years ago, a rash of church fire bombings caused the nation to pause and wonder why the attacks occurred.

52 years ago, in Birmingham, Alabama, four little Black girls were killed in their Sunday school class when a bomb with a minimum of 15 sticks of dynamite was placed under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist. That savage attack was labeled “an act of white supremacist terrorism.”

Although the recent black church burnings are under investigation, at least three have been declared arson. Whether or not these latest assaults are tied to the controversy over removing the Confederate flag from state and public buildings, history suggests the church burnings may be hate crimes fueled by attitudes of racism and white supremacy.

According to a CNN ORC poll, 57 percent of Americans say the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride and not racism.

The Confederate flag was unfurled in some Southern states during the Civil Rights movement in protest to the progress Black people were making to breakdown segregation. But, more disturbing today are indicators across the country of a major divide between Blacks and Whites in perception of racism. It is the apparent proximity to the victims of the church burnings that separate attitudes along racial lines.

For Black Americans, the burning of black churches and the massacre of black parishioners during Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, hit very close to home and reminds Black folk of a history and legacy of violence. It is not lost on many Black people that the arrival of Black African ancestors were violently forced from their homelands, strapped to the hull of ships, brought to America across the Atlantic Ocean against their will, and brutally enslaved, legally, for more than three hundred years.

The Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves on certain conditions but did not prevent the enactment of Jim Crow, legalized segregation, the rise of public lynching, and the subsequent struggle to end discrimination.

While a majority of Whites see the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride, there is an apparent blind eye and a loss of memory about the declaration of war against the Union. In today’s vernacular, it was domestic terrorism that divided the nation in a civil war with a well-organized strategy to bring down the government of the United States of America.

As a society, a warning cry is sounded in this precarious and dangerous period that the protracted movement by hate groups pose a threat against Blacks, Muslims, immigrants, gays, and other people they deem targets of their hatred.

Now is the time to determine which path the nation will take into the future: tolerating racism, bigotry, and violence; or, recognizing “every human person is sacred across all borders.

” We really do have a choice in this matter. Which way, America, will we go?

La-Times-Photo

(Veasey Conway / Morning News)

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