Five Black churches in New Jersey came under attack Thanksgiving weekend by White nationalists. Police are investigating the incidents as possible hate crimes. The unidentified bastions of bigotry wreaked havoc on the exterior structures of the churches including shattering a stained glass window. The vandals also damaged outdoor signs at the houses of worship.
The state of New Jersey defines hate crimes, or bias crimes as it is known in New Jersey, as “an offense with the purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.”
The five Black churches to be the latest victims of White pride are: Church of God in Christ for All Saints, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Calvary Baptist Church, Union Baptist Church, and Morristown Church of Christ. All five churches have a Black shepherd leading a predominantly Black flock.
The governor of New Jersey condemned the racist acts. Governor Phil Murphy tweeted, “Disgusted by reported vandalism of African-American churches across Morristown. These cowardly acts will not shake our faith. They will renew our determination to come together as one NJ.”
Authorities stated they will be beefing up security at all the local churches to ensure the safety of congregants. Police ask members of the community to “remain vigilant and call police if any suspicious activity is observed.”
Attacks on Black churches are like a blast from the past. From the moment opportunistic and capitalist Whites first introduced Christianity to Black people during slavery, Black people have had to endure a double standard of religious persecution. The Black church, long recognized as the epicenter, the heart of the Black community, has been an easy and effective target for violent bigots.
When Plymouth Rock first landed on Africans, the melanated people were stripped of their native tongue, culture, and belief system. Initially they were provided with nothing to fill the gaping hole of their existence except for grueling hours of laborious work in all weather conditions and lashes. Eventually, a genius saw fit to replace what the Africans were being stripped of. That led to teaching Africans common English and instilling in them the fear of God through Christianity. Surely, whatever belief system they had previously could not have been the “one true” religion or belief considering their enslavement. As a matter of survival, Africans relinquished their birthrights to their new masters and adopted the White man’s truth.
Slaves gobbled up the “Word of God” and soon began having services. In most cases the slave master would appoint one of the slaves as a preacher to keep the slaves in line. Slavemasters oftentimes were present during the services to quell rebellion and to ensure dissension wasn’t underfoot. The presence of the slavemaster alone was oppressive to the slave congregation hindering their ability to truly express themselves. The slave master would lash out at preachers for teaching dissension.
After the traditional form of slavery was discontinued, descendants of slaves still harbored a distorted view of the social construct. Many times, church was the only haven of solace for the souls of the downtrodden. Capitalizing off the emotional burdens of Black people, Black churches sprang up all over and thrived. These churches kept the communities somewhat grounded while still feeding a “Word” inspired by the same White devils who ensnared them to begin with. Black people became better Christians than their White counterparts. Communities were tight-knit. The village raised the village. All the good that the Black churches did in the community however did not prepare them to be reviled and attacked by White traditionalists.
Black churches around the country were firebombed, raided, and burned to the ground. The KKK and other White supremacists turned their scorn on the houses of worship hoping to spiritually decimate the already disenfranchised people.
Fast forward to 2017.
Donald Trump is president and continues his march towards “Making America Great Again”. Trump’s rhetoric during the 2016 election has empowered all the closet racists to come out in droves. If someone as vulgar and blatantly discriminatory as Trump can ascend to the highest seat of the land without so much as an apology for treading on minorities, why then should these undercover racists continue to lurk in the shadows?
Since Donald Trump took office there has been an uptick in hate crimes around the country. Black churches have taken a disproportionate hit with the uptick. In August, a Texas church was vandalized. The words “Trump” and “Satan” were scrawled on the floor of the fellowship hall in ketchup and mustard. Last month, vandals set ablaze a Kansas City church and spray painted “Nigger” and “KKK” alongside a swastika on the doors.
The recent attacks in New Jersey are still only the beginning in an effort by the Trump administration to ramp up their divisive efforts to keep Black people in their place.
This could also be a ruse. It could very well be Black people targeting themselves in an effort to garner attention or spark more civil unrest. Let’s not forget the actions of the Black air force cadet or the Black Kansas State University student who both pulled the race card. They both walked back on their racist claims admitting they were the culprits in their own hazing.