The Burning of the Black Churches
By Hugh B. Price, President, National Urban League, To be Equal, 21 June 1996
Just learned recently the Urban League has a presence on AOL. Keyword: Urban League. There are weekly articles by Hugh Price. Here is the most recent.
The burning of the black churches is an absolute outrage and must be stopped immediately.
Some three dozen black churches have been burned in the last 18 months.
Those committing these cowardly crimes must be brought to justice; this must be condemned by all Americans.
The National Urban League applauds President Clinton for the steps he has announced to end the burning of black churches in the south.
President Clinton met with the governors of the southern states in a bipartisan effort to stop the burnings. He said: "it is clear that racial hostility is the driving force behind a number of these incidents."
Prior to this meeting President Clinton announced the creation of a task force of over 200 federal agents to work on the case; protect remaining churches from arsonists; he supported bipartisan legislation to make it easier to bring federal prosecutions against those who attack houses of worship; and he introduced a new toll-free number that is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for those who have information about the fires; 1-888-ATF-FIRE.
Ironically, if the goal of the arsonist was to stoke racial tension, they unwittingly have had the opposite effect -- instantly galvanizing and uniting people across color lines against these unspeakable crimes.
Coalitions from the 1960s have been activated -- Black church leaders, the Christian Coalition, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Urban League and other groups have risen up to denounce these assaults and demand vigorous investigation and prosecution.
The Urban League affiliates in the south and across the country have joined with other community groups to protect remaining black churches with night watches and by facilitating rewards. They have mobilized their communities, called for political action, collected funds and begun rebuilding.
The burnings are part of a broader pattern of racism, intolerance and alienation and we must continually learn how to deal effectively with such attitudes.
I believe the Oklahoma City bombing, the Freemen's stand-off in Montana and the church burnings are fueled by the incendiary rhetoric on talk radio, the wedge politics practiced by cynical candidates for office and the scapegoating of minorities and immigrants. These are suicidal threats to America's social cohesion.
By the middle of the next century, our nation's population will be half white and half minority.
We'll either move forward together as the most robust, multi-ethnic and inclusive democracy in the history of humankind - or we'll sink together into the muck and mire of intolerance and hatred.
It's our choice and the choice will be made on our watch.
The National Urban League asks all Americans to pull together to protect religious freedom; and to protect the Black Church that has been so instrumental in family worship, self-help, and community life.
25 TBE 6/21/96 TO BE EQUAL 500 E. 62nd St. NY, NY 10021
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