This morning, I asked friends and followers to be curious about those who mourn the fire at Notre Dame's Cathedral, but had nothing to say about the three Black churches burned down by a white deputy sheriff's son in Louisiana in the last month. Especially if it was them. I mean, we really don't need to feel curious about why PENCE made a statement about Notre Dame, but didn't mention the Louisiana hate crimes, do we? We know why he doesn't care about them. But for everyone else, it bears some introspection if you fall into that category.
This is not to say one cannot be concerned and sad about more than one thing at the same time. It's to notice broadcast media's and politicians' priorities, and make sure we always do our best to not allow priorities that place privilege over the vulnerable and marginalized take hold.
Right on cue, this morning Stephanie Ruhle caught my ear as the first to mention the hate crimes in Louisiana in the same breath as the Notre Dame fire. She didn't minimize what happened in Paris. She simply reminded her viewers that something equally, if not more tragic was happening in our own backyards, to which attention must be paid.
And the aftermath of devastating church fires, don't forget, is being felt here at home too. In Louisiana, one former NFL tight end is helping a fund raising effort for three historically Black churches that were deliberately burned down in the state's St. Landry Parish district in recent weeks. Benjamin Watson, a former New Orleans Saints player, tweeted an address and a Go Fund Me page where those interested can send donations for the churches' restorations. The campaign has already raised almost $100,000. But I firmly believe we can get that number up. I am tweeting out where you can find out more on this important fund-raiser.
Mind you this was directly after the segment about Notre Dame wherein Ruhle reported that wealthy French companies had already pledged up to half a billion dollars to rebuild it. Benjamin Watson's GoFundMe is struggling to reach $1.8 million to rebuild 3 churches that were burned down on purpose by a white supremacist, whose father is a sheriff's deputy.
Why are monuments to religions that are used to oppress the marginalized so worshiped and mourned, when the churches and sacred spaces of the marginalized are intentionally destroyed and ignored when their worshippers cry out for help?
From a Facebook post a friend put on my wall, by a user named Klee Benally:
I've been to the #notredame & could only wonder, why Indigenous People's most holy sites are viewed as less sacred than this man-made building? As it burns & consolatory outpourings flow from throughout the world, I can't help but reflect with many of my brothers & sisters in struggles to #defendthesacred, on the deafening silence we've endured when our most holy sites have been maliciously burned & maimed in the name "progress."
(Regarding destruction of a forest to build a ski lodge...) A giant Ponderosa once stood where thousands of trees have been thrashed, branches ground off, & cast to huge piles. It's hard to imagine what one church would look like if it was destroyed, but here looks like thousands have been razed.
For nearly 4 decades, the Holy Peaks have been a historic battleground for religious freedom. Lawsuits failed to protect the mountain with the Supreme Court affirming that no “substantial burden” on religion was imposed & that the only effect of expansion & proposed wastewater snowmaking was on Indigenous People's “subjective, emotional religious experience.” This delegitimization is what cultural genocide looks like.
So, mourn Notre Dame. But mourn also Louisiana, and the hate that destroyed those churches. Mourn the forests that were destroyed and Indigenous people arrested and killed trying to defend their own holy sites as well. Since, you know, we're all so good at doing more than one thing at the same time. And let's please divest ourselves of the myth that we don't have enough money to fix what is broken in our nation, or that reparations aren't deserved.