As black churches burn, at least Ricky-Roo Santorum seems to be keeping his trap shut
Can someone explain what this picture is doing here? The Confederate battle flag has nothing to do with racism, or violence against African-Americans, does it? It's just about the Confederate "heritage." And wasn't the AME church shooting, and now all these church burnings, about hostility to religion?
"The fact that the recent fires occurred so close together in the wake of the Charleston shooting could be cause for concern, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The fires may be retaliation for the backlash against the Confederate flag that followed the shootings, he said."
-- from "Fires at black churches raise concern,"
by Rick Jervis, in USA Today
by Rick Jervis, in USA Today
There's one thing to be said about this scarifying wave of violence against African-American churches. As far as I know, Ricky-Roo Santorum has had the decency to refrain from telling us that the "rationale" is "hostility to religion." (See my June 19 post, "Has Ricky-Roo Santorum yet thought of any possible 'rationale' for the Charleston AME church shoot-up besides hostility to religion?," and also Howie's June 21 post, "Conservative Politicians Tragically Pander To Racists.")
My goodness, I don't believe I have ever before used the word "decency" in a sentence that concerns Ricky-Roo, except possibly to note that the son of a bitch hasn't got any. I often wonder, when he was little and grown-ups asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, did he say "a far-right-wing scumbag" or "a vile lying demagogue" or "an insane mouthpiece for the Roman Catholic God"? Amazingly, though, he grew up to be all three!
I don't suppose we could say Ricky-Roo is the vilest person on the planet, since mostly he's just talk -- although during his time in the U.S. Senate he certainly did everything he could to turn the country into the hell he carries around in his head. Nevertheless, he doesn't go around setting fire to churches, does he?
So why blame Ricky-Roo? you ask. It's not as if he lit the matches that started the fires, is it? (He didn't he? The authorities have established his whereabouts for all those times, right? Just for the record?
No, I don't suppose that would be Ricky-Roo's style. He deals mostly in words of hate -- setting out the special extremist Catholic version of the far-right-wing authoritarian mentality, and its rigorous scapegoating of people who are "other." So no, he probably didn't light any of those matches. He didn't even say, in so many words, "Go out, brothers, and burn black churches." He just did his best to fan the flames, to create the best possible environment for hatred erupting into violence.
And all those rebel-flag wavers? They didn't light those fires, did they? Well, not all of them, anyway.
Sometimes these stories just write themselves. Okay, this story didn't write itself, exactly. USA Today's Rick Jervis wrote it. But the plotlines and even the details are hellaciously familiar. Come to think of it, the modern-day Confederates could be right -- this is their heritage, isn't it?
Fires at black churches raise concern
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY, 3:07 p.m. EDT, July 1, 2015
Fires at several predominantly black churches in Southern states the past two weeks — at least three of them attributed to arson — raise concerns about potential fallout from the recent South Carolina church shooting.
The fires have all taken place in the weeks since the attack June 17. A 21-year-old man with apparent white supremacist beliefs is accused of going on a shooting rampage inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., killing nine people.
The burned churches are in Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. Federal investigators are looking into some of the cases to determine whether hate crimes were the cause, but so far the fires do not appear to be related.
And Tuesday night, a fire raged through a prominent African-American church, Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal, in Greeleyville, S.C. that was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995. Authorities said it was too soon to tell what caused the fire, which took place during a night of frequent storms and lightning strikes.
The fire rekindled painful memories from the arson that destroyed the church 20 years ago, Williamsburg County Councilman Eddie Woods Jr. told the Associated Press.
"That was a tough thing to see," Woods said. "It is hurting those people again. But we're going to rebuild. If this was someone, they need to know that hate won't stop us again,"
"This is a systematic attack against the black church," said the Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative, a coalition of 34,000 African-American churches. Evans said he's had several conference calls with black church leaders across the USA about the fires. "We are on alert status."
The fact that the recent fires occurred so close together in the wake of the Charleston shooting could be cause for concern, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The fires may be retaliation for the backlash against the Confederate flag that followed the shootings, he said. After photos surfaced of suspect Dylann Roof wearing Confederate flag patches, retailers such as Walmart and Amazon suspended sales of the flag because of its popularity with white supremacists. Four of the rebel flags were recently removed from the state Capitol grounds in Alabama, and South Carolina lawmakers will decide whether or not to do the same next month.
Websites popular with white supremacists, such as Stormfront.org, lit up with angry denouncements of the treatment of the Confederate flag, Potok said.
"The single most suspicious thing about these fires is that they came so close together and so hard on the heels of attacks on the Confederate battle flag," Potok said. "That is a revered symbol for the radical right."
Some of the church fires were severe, such as the one last week at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, which gutted an entire church wing. The FBI is investigating.
Others, such as the fire at College Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., were less damaging. Firefighters arrived at that church at around 10 p.m. June 21 to find a church van in flames in the parking lot and smoldering piles of hay and bags of soil near a side entrance, said Capt. D.J. Corcoran, a spokesman with the Knoxville Fire Department.
There were no obvious signs pointing to a hate crime, and the property was mostly unhurt, he said. The incident remains under investigation.
Potok said he is waiting on results of the investigations before drawing connections between the fires and the Charleston shooting. There has been a history of church fires after major events.
Hours after Barack Obama was elected as the nation's first black president in November 2008, arsonists torched the predominantly black Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Mass.
Attacks on black churches have a long history in this country, said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League.
Dating to post-Civil War Reconstruction, members of the Ku Klux Klan targeted black churches as a way of terrorizing the black community, he said. One of the most infamous attacks is the bombing in 1963 of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., which killed four girls, ages 11 to 14.
As recently as the mid-1990s, a rash of church fires prompted the formation of the National Church Arson Task Force. The group investigated 429 arsons and bombings of churches from 1995 to 1997 but found only a handful of cases involved hate groups.
That does little to quiet the fears of folks such as Evans, who has reached out to the Department of Justice about the attacks.
"This is a nationwide attack on the black church," he said. "We're taking it very seriously."