In the weeks since the Charleston Massacre, at least six predominantly Black churches have been set on fire across the South. Mainstream media has been awfully quiet about these acts of terror. This should not come as a surprise, as it is not news that mainstream media outlets are too afraid to recognize and report on issues of race and racism in this country—issues that are deeply-rooted in white supremacist ideology.
It is these very same quiet news outlets that were all too quick to condemn protests and mobilizations against police brutality. These same media outlets have labeled protests “rowdy” and “extremely violent.” We cannot forget how the media covered the Baltimore “riots” and how disgusted it appeared to be at the protesters who were rightfully angry, calling them “thugs, looters and criminals.” Yet, when it comes to talking about the burning down of Black churches across the South, there are no condemnations, no mention of ‘thugs,’ no helicopters flying over with footage of the churches as they burn to the ground, and no asking #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches?
In fact, none of the major news stations are covering these terrorists acts. I use the phrase “terrorist acts” deliberately here, because acts of burning down Black churches across the South are acts of hate, and are acts of terror. If not meant to kill, they are at least meant to terrorize the Black community. Not only that, the burning of Black churches has a very specific and violent history. Black churches have been a part of the black struggle from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, always providing a space for the black community to pray, to unite, to strategize and to mobilize. It is this significance of Black churches, one that is rooted in our history and present, that unequivocally makes these attacks acts of racism, acts of hate, and ruthless acts of terror.
Our present is one that has been largely constructed based on false ideas of a post-racial society. There is an overwhelming belief that our nation is no longer racist and that we live in a harmonious multicultural society. In fact, in a recent Charlotte newspaper article about the burning of black churches, one community member is quoted as saying “there’s no hate… here we have 200 nationalities in this neighborhood and we get along just fine.” Perhaps this is what is most infuriating to me: our inability to recognize that these are blatant acts of hate. If the media does not want to call the burning of Black churches hate crimes, then what can we call them? Simply, ‘unfortunate incidents’?
I am tired of the passive media that does not want to call things as they are; racism and white supremacy. This is not a coincidence. This is not a time to question what incited these acts; it is a time to realize that we are blind to how much damage our history continues to inflict on Black and Brown communities. And mainstream media is chief to blame for perpetuating that blindness. Mainstream media ensures that Black and Brown people continue to be labeled as ‘thugs’, ‘criminals’, and terrorists. Yet, when it comes to reporting on the burning of the Black churches, there is silence. A silence that is felt all across the nation, and a silence that reminds us of why we have to be loud and why our voices must never fall silent too.