Last spring, over the course of 10 days, three black churches in Louisiana were burned down. It was a heinous act that evoked memories of a much darker time in our country’s history.
NBC News reports that Holden Matthews, the man responsible, has now pleaded guilty. Matthews faces three counts of intentional damage to religious property. Those alone constitute a federal hate crime and carry a sentence of up to 2o years per count. He also pleaded guilty on one count of using fire to commit a felony, a crime that could potentially net him a 10-year sentence. Additionally, Matthews is facing state charges that include two counts of simple arson of a religious building and one count of aggravated arson of a religious building.
Investigators have said that race wasn’t a primary factor in what Matthews did. He has an interest in “black metal,” a niche subgenre of heavy metal that tends to hold anti-christian views. The U.S Attorney issued a statement that said: “Matthews admitted to setting the fires because of the religious character of these buildings, in an effort to raise his profile as a Black Metal’ musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s.”
Which, okay? My main question is, why did he burn three black churches if race wasn’t factor? I admit I haven’t been to Louisiana but I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that there are also plenty of white churches in the state. Burning churches, on the whole, is just a fucked up thing to do. Yet it feels particularly targeted that this was only three black churches. It wasn’t like this took place over one night, this was a week-long endeavor. Upon doing some research, there’s a sub-genre within the sub-genre of neo-Nazi black metal. So, it’s not a stretch to say race may have played some role in the burning of three black churches. One is horrific enough but three? That’s a pattern.
A hate crime is a hate crime, whether it’s targeting a group based on their religion, race or sexuality. Yet, I feel like it’s a cop-out saying “he liked metal, it was about religion not race.” This is one of those rare instances where justice is being served, yet the point feels completely missed.