Within a few weeks, three historic black churches have burned down in St. Landry Parish, LA. And yet, people still defend the “death” of racism.
Last weekend, the members of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church saw their church home reduced to a pile of ashes. Prior to this, St. Mary’s Baptist Church and Greater Union Baptist Church were also burned just a few miles away. A fourth church burned down in Caddo Parish, LA. Each of these churches contained more than a century of history, and for many residents of St. Landry Parish, these buildings were far more than just a place of worship.
These incidents hit home hard for me. I have been a resident of Louisiana since I was two years old. I competed in sports with schools from Caddo Parish, which was just a drive over a bridge from my school in Bossier Parish.
Living in the South, specifically in the state of Louisiana, for the majority of my life, I would like to say racism is dead––like so many people argue today. However, this is a greatly misconstrued lie. Racism is alive and well. The desecration of these historic churches only further proves its existence.
NBC News interviewed Pastor Gerald Toussaint of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church while the pastor had tears flood his eyes. “It’s sad that our society has stooped this low to do something like that,” said Toussaint.
I can only imagine the pain of losing such a sacred place. For most regular church attendees, a church is a place of belonging and community. Whoever committed these crimes robbed each attendee of both.
How many of the attendees had weddings in those churches? The funerals of lost loved ones? Witnessed the baptism of their children?
While the burning of churches in general is deplorable, it is evident these churches were burned down because they were predominately black churches. During the Civil Rights Movement, black churches were burned down to intimidate members in the community.
The Civil Rights Movement was 50 years ago. Someone lit these church homes on fire because of skin color in 2019.
My stomach churns to think such bitterness, ignorance and pure hatred exist at the entrance of not only my country, but my state, my city and my neighborhood. When will it end?
Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said they are continuing to investigate the fires, but they still have no leads.
“We know the past, and we know the history, and it certainly drives our investigation. I think it brings more passion to our investigation to quickly get answers,” said Browning. “We’re hunting them down right now, and we’re going to find them. We’re going to bring them to justice.”
While I am grateful for such determined officials, this issue cannot be addressed by law enforcement alone. This is a far greater issue than someone committing a crime.
We continue to act like racism is dead and done, but it is not. I have even heard some people actually defend previous generations for being racist because it was “normal at the time.” Here is the truth: racism was never OK. Belittling another human being because of the color of their skin cannot be excused by ignorance––not five decades ago and certainly not now.
Those of us who are disgusted racism still exists need to stand up and teach younger generations in actions and speech racism was never and will never be “OK.” Discrimination and stereotyping is not something we are born with. Children are taught one race is “better” than another, and we need to teach them otherwise.
Toussaint’s congregation has now joined with the Morning Star Baptist Church, another local predominantly black church in the area. A deacon of the church, Curtis Zachary, told NBC despite the trials the black community has faced, they will not waver.
“Let them know we’ll keep praying with a building or without a building,” said Zachary. “You can burn a building, but you can’t take us, can’t break us.”