On Tuesday, reports on all major news networks mourned the burning of The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Some believe John the Baptist baptized the faithful at a location near the site where the French Gothic structure stands. Over 850 years old, construction began in 1160 under the order of Bishop de Sully and was completed in about 100 years.
The fire, which reportedly destroyed all the wood in the structure as well as the spire, was not the only time the cathedral was jeopardized. It was ransacked during the French Revolution and many religious works of art were lost to history then as well.
This blaze, however, did far worse damage.
As the fire still raged, dignitaries from across the globe pledged support and resources to help rebuild it. So far, almost a billion dollars has been raised to reconstruct the sanctuary that witnessed the entire span of contemporary French history.
This great loss to history drew the empathy of both Catholic and non-Catholics from around the globe.
As the news continued to pour in, I couldn’t help but think about the three black churches in Louisiana that were burned at the hands of 21-year-old Holden Matthews, a sheriff deputy’s son who was arrested near his southern Louisiana home.
The first church he burned was St. Mary Baptist Church on March 26. Greater Union Baptist Church Opelousas was later in flames, as was Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.
The three fires destroyed churches that had existed for more than a century and had been the spiritual homes of generations of black families, evoking the long history of racist crimes committed in the Jim Crow South.” https://t.co/UHwtpSdGre
To many, the fires were a clear indicator of racial terrorism re-invigorated in the deep south. But much of mainstream society was slow to show any kind of reaction. The President of the United States, who offered his assistance to the Notre Dame tragedy via Twitter, has not spoken out about the Louisiana incidents at all.
To be fair, U.S. Representative Clay Higgins, R-La, did release a video imploring the culprit to turn himself in. His overture does seem quite sincere.
“If you participated in this, you have succumbed to evil,” he said, wearing a cowboy hat and standing in front of the rubble at St. Mary Baptist Church. “Powers of principality are controlling your life.”
However, his words of admonishment, and as well as his veiled dig at white nationalism, went un-echoed by most of the rest of the world.
Yes, Notre Dame’s effect on the world’s collective Christian population cannot be understated.
Neither can the manner in which the sitting president’s absolute refusal to speak out against white nationalism in America has emboldened bigots across the globe.
As we hold Paris in our thoughts today, let’s also send some love to our neighbors in Louisiana. Three historically black churches have burned in recent weeks, charring buildings and scattering communities. If you can, contribute to rebuilding funds here: https://t.co/OSteYWzU9v
Currently, there has been an estimated $700 million from three sources alone that have been donated to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, much of which came from billionaires Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering – which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, donated another $300 million after Pinault’s initial pledge of $150 million.
L’Oreal, via its billionaire owners, the Bettencourt family, pledged $301 million for the The Notre Dame restoration.
Altogether, nearly a $1 billion has been donated to the reconstruction of The Notre Dame after little more than 24 hours.
Conversely, the GoFundMe set up to raise the estimated $1.8 million need to rebuild the three churches in Louisiana had only reached $150,000, less than 10% of the goal.
But following the fire at The Notre Dame, the donations jumped to $620,000. That’s not to say that people weren’t attempting to bring attention to the burning of the three Black churches, as former Saints’ tight end, Ben Watson, has remained vigilant it letting people know about the importance of the churches and how to get involved in the efforts to rebuild them.
While human charity in the midst of turmoil is appreciated, the fact that this only occurred after the fire in Paris is worthy of a side eye. It’s also a reminder of how black concerns take a backseat to other events and how they’re always juxtaposed with the concerns, sensibilities and sympathies of the mainstream.