April 16, 2019

White Supremacy & the Burning of Notre Dame Church.


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UPDATE April 19: Through the power of sharing and giving, over 2 million dollars has been raised for the churches since the writing of this article early Tuesday morning, April 16th. I am thankful that many have also seen the disparity in outpouring and given where the need is. There is still much work to be done. Consider giving now.

The systemic, cultural oppressive system of white supremacy continues.

The world mourns the loss of a cultural icon—Notre Dame Church. Yet, silence shrouds the burning of three Black churches by a White Supremacist here on United States soil.

In March 2019, Holden Matthews, son of a Sheriff’s deputy, burned three Black churches to the ground and is being charged with hate crimes. Over the past centuries, the list of Black churches burned by hateful people is extremely long. In 1995 alone, over 30 Black churches were burned.

And today, with hate crimes on the rise, three more buildings serving communities that had hoped to practice their religion in freedom and peace were burned to the ground on the basis of the color of the skin of its members.

And yet we mourn the loss of a monument that has played its own role in the oppression of people. Napoleon was coronated at Notre Dame in 1804 and then proceeded to rape and pillage all across Europe. The Catholic Church, as we know, has also played a large part in covering up the prevalence of sexual abuse throughout its churches.

It’s not all bad, right? Notre Dame is a testament to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance period and many highlights in human history since its construction began in 1160, a time known for its violence, savagery, and slavery.

And while, as an artist myself, I can appreciate the craftsmanship, artistry, and collaborative teamwork that went into building it (and rebuilding it time and time again), I can’t help but be saddened by the commitment that we have made as a society to patriarchal white supremacy.

Year after year, we continue to rebuild an ancient system that oppresses, abuses, and holds us back while ignoring the stain on our society that is the outcome of that system—hate and othering—choosing to uplift one group of people while oppressing others.

All the churches in question use the same bible that says “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 2:26). And yet, as a society, we only cry when the white church burns.

We are all products of this system and we will have to work together to identify the old ways and find renewal that is grounded in love and kindness.

It will take a cultural shift, starting with ourselves but extending through our families, communities, places of worship, governments, and global systems to look for those that are hurting. Currently, the systems in place, hide the poorest and the most marginalized among us (children of war, prisoners, the poor, the sick).

Let’s talk to each other, build communities that aren’t homogeneous and weave a new narrative that elevates symbols of love and equality. Maybe one day we will see “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)

Want to do something about this system? Start here. Or read this.

author: Corti Cooper

Image: @elephantjournal/instagram

Image: ABC News/YouTube

Editor: Naomi Boshari

Relephant bonus:


In defense of being a "Moderate." ~ Waylon Lewis

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Kristin Shewfelt Apr 19, 2019 12:41pm

First of all, I want to thank Corti for writing an article that sparked so much discussion. I’ve given it lots of thought and that’s a good thing.

I tend to agree with the many who do not see the Notre Dame de Paris as a symbol of white supremacy. A quick peek at its history might shed some light. It is a medieval Catholic cathedral built in the Gothic style of the times. Architects of Gothic cathedrals wanted to elevate their works of art as to be as close to the heavens as possible. The cathedral is intimately tied to French culture and history, and suffered greatly during the French Revolution as it was seen as a symbol of the corrupt relationship between the Catholic Church, the French monarchy and its oligarchy, a trio of partners that profited greatly from colonial expansion, a transatlantic slave trade and imbalances in a global trade market. What current events in France tell us all right now is more about the powerful social inequities that exist in most places, where billionaires can spare vast sums of money during a moment of tremendous social unrest. White supremacy? A stretch. Social inequality may be the more powerful argument.

The historical burning of black churches in the South is another story deeply tied to white supremacy in this country. But it is not out of the news nor being given a back seat. Funds have been pouring in. Our struggle with racial equity is far from over, and we are living in precarious times, but moving the needle forward means that we at least have to come to a place to have a better discussion in front of us.

My two cents. I again appreciate the discussion you sparked.

Cynthia S Townley Apr 19, 2019 4:08am

This comparison is way out there. Notre Dame burning is not about White Supremacy, it’s about history. The burning of the churches is.

Kristin Shewfelt Apr 18, 2019 4:54pm

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/louisiana-black-churches-burned-arson-fires-raise-more-1m-after-n995536. I don’t get it and I don’t think the author does either. The article appears to lack substantive research.

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Corti Cooper

Designer and Creative Director Corti Cooper is the principal of Dot Think Design, a mindful design and marketing firm that supports nonprofits, arts organizations and other mindful businesses both large and small. With a mind for justice and eye for design, Corti brings a dynamic creative vision, holistic approach to strategy and broad knowledge of cutting-edge technology solutions to the table for all her projects. From community foundations to mindfully-focused product companies, Corti partners with organizations to deliver not only custom tech solutions, but holistic approaches that address business goals – from brand strategy and high-quality content to goal-driven user experience design.

As lead user experience designer for Elephant Journal, Corti works on the product team to enhance user experience design and transform its vision of a reader-driven ecosystem. Corti lives in Connecticut with her family of humans and animals. Find her on the web, Instagram or Facebook.