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On the Burning of African-American Churches

Marilyn Buck


I speak for more than just myself when I say that our hearts are heavy. We choke with outrage at the bigotry, racism, and intolerance that is spewing forth inside Amerika. it has taken six years of Black churches being burned before the dominant white society and government have been forced to recognize it as more than "coincidence." But we have seen such conspiracies of silence many times before – we have witnessed the cover-up of the lynchings of Black men inside Mississippi jails. Or the systematic mistreatment of foreign nationals who have attempted to cross the border or arrive on boats. Attacks on churches of the Black community are an assault on the whole of the community, an attempt to intimidate, desecrate, and subjugate the nation.

Intolerance and hatred are like cancers that poison the body. They may be denied or ignored but their destructive intent cannot be disguised forever. Rising racial hatred has become more acceptable, after years of struggle to beat it back and change the social and economic reality to become more just and equal. In the South, the North, on Native American lands and wherever there are Latin American communities, especially Puerto Rican and Mexican. The cancer has eaten away any illusions of the good society.

When we are ill, we usually rush to find a cure. If we ignore or hide the disease it will kill us. The U.S. is choking on racism and intolerance. There have been ongoing attempts to open and clean out the cancer and to seek cures and restitution - from Black Reconstruction to Civil Rights and Black Power. But every one of these struggles has been fought and attacked by the white-dominant government, as if the cure were worse than the disease.

This is upside down; it's crazy! If white people joined against racism: refused to participate even passively, in white racial privilege: and condemned inequality, all cultural and ethnic heritages would advance in construction of a new world. Different nations and cultures could sit down as equals to deal with the social problems facing us all. It would be a relief to be able to live without hatred and fear.

We white people in the U.S., no matter how poor, exploited or religiously oppressed we may have been, have not had to live under the brutal vise of racism and national hatred. Unless we look that racism in the face, and challenge it we will remain complicit with a system that in the end will crush us all.

To heal the body you sometimes have to give up what you think is good for you, because it is poison. There are no "good old days" to go back to before the eruption of intolerance and hatred. There were never any "good old days" for the majority of people in the world. You may say, "There is nothing I can do about it. I am only one person." That is not true. You are one person in a community of people. Your voice can rally another person to speak out. Society can be changed when those of us with moral courage and justice speak out and do not allow evil to go on in our names. The stronger our voices, the more potential we have to stop these vile acts.

As prisoners, our voices can be heard. The act of being here today stands as witness to that. As we raise our voices to condemn the burning of the churches and to defend the community of humanity.

Reprinted with permission of the author from Prison News Service #55, Summer/Fall 1996. Prison News Service can be contacted at PSC Publishers, P.O. Box 5052, Stn A Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5W 1W4

Kwame Ture with Marilyn Buck Kwame Ture visiting Marilyn at FCI Dublin (California)