As African Americans in Texas and North Carolina contemplate rebuilding three more churches destroyed by fire, a phalanx of federal investigators moves across the South, searching for evidence linking the latest attacks to the burning of 29 other black churches in the last 18 months. So far, investigators have yet to uncover evidence of a "national conspiracy." The bulk of the attacks appear to be "random" acts of vandalism, the work of "teenagers" and "copycats" rather than hardened conspirators.
It is worth observing that the absence of any organized conspiracy may make the phenomenon of church burning more, rather than less, disturbing. Far easier to abide the idea of a tight-knit group of racist fanatics than to accept the alternative that we live in a time when a substantial number of individuals, unconnected with one another or with organized white supremacist groups, regard burning black churches as a plausible act, worthy of emulation.