The burning of black churches in Louisiana is, first of all, tragic and horrifying. But the aftermath has been uplifting and encouraging. It’s one of the more paradoxical examples of how prejudice in America is still alive and well, while at the same time demonstrating how progress — real, tangible progress — continues to be made in overcoming bigotry.
For those who haven’t heard: three churches in Louisiana, all in St. Landry Parish, were burned out over a 10-day period at the end of March and beginning of April 2019. The suspect in the case is a 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy. This is a young man who’s probably going away for a long, long time.
Although police haven’t said that hatred of blacks was the motivating factor (they haven’t speculated on motives yet), it’s hard to escape that conclusion. They were traditionally black churches, after all. It’s not hard to connect the dots here.
This attempt to intimidate and injure black Americans is vile, and demonstrates how far there still is to go when it comes to race in the United States. Combined with so many other examples — the Charlottesville riots, the continuing disparities in black schools and health care, etc. — it’s clear that prejudice is alive and well.
But it’s not all darkness. Praise God for that! The fundraising campaign to help rebuild the churches now stands, as of Saturday morning, April 20, at more than $2.1 million. The goal was $1.8 million, so they’ve crushed that goal, and donations continue to pour in.
It’s a phenomenal response by the public, and is an indication that people do care — all people, as I’m sure the response isn’t just from blacks. This has obviously struck a chord in many.
There was some complaining at first that the burnings weren’t getting all the media attention they deserved. That may or may not be true; I saw a lot of coverage, but I also read a lot of news from African-American-focused websites. But even if it was true at first, it’s no longer true. The donations themselves are evidence that the story is widely disseminated now.
The aftermath of the burnings is encouraging to me, and should be to everyone. When we read about the initial devastation, it’s easy to sigh and think “some things never change…” But then we see the response, and the outpouring of money and good will toward these churches and what they represent, our attitude should change. Yes, there’s still work to do. And equally true: yes, things are getting better.