Early Wednesday morning an arsonist started a fire at Briar Creek Baptist Church, a predominately black church in Charlotte, North Carolina. 75 firefighters responded to the fire and contained it after two hours of work. Two firefighters were injured fighting the blaze.
The fire department determined that the fire was intentionally set. The fire did around 250,000 dollars worth of damage.
While the motives of the arsonist are not known, the fact that the fire was set at a predominately black church just a week after the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has the attention of investigators. They are investigating the fire as a possible hate crime.
While there are other plausible explanations for why a person would commit arson, the politically charged environment in the South in the aftermath of the Charleston shootings raises the possibility that a white supremacist targeted the church. While most of the South rallied to the support of Emanuel AME Church after last week’s tragic shooting incident, the flap over the displaying of the Confederate flag has generated a backlash from a small cadre of neo-confederate White nationalists.
Briar Creek Baptist Church pastor Mannix Kinsey held out hope that the arson would not be a hate crime. He also said the congregation has already forgiven whoever committed the arson, striking a tone similar to that of the Emanuel AME congregation, who forgave the man that shot and killed nine people in their church.
Whether the arson was racially-motivated or not, this nation’s history of racial violence should remind Americans to remain vigilant in their efforts to protect black churches and other potential targets for racist attacks. In the wake of the South Carolina shootings, the possibility that white nationalist and neo-confederate activists might engage in copycat violence in order to maintain their tenuous grip on racial terror in the United States, remains all too real.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.