The White House has offered “assistance in the rehabilitation” of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France after flames ripped through the historic 12th century landmark earlier this week.
The offer was met with criticism from , however, and has reignited discussions about the aid and resources still needed in Louisiana; Flint, Michigan; Puerto Rico; and the Virgin Islands after calamities here in the United States.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump offered his condolences to French President Emmanuel Macron as the nation grapples with the aftermath of the fire that nearly destroyed a “truly great Cathedral” on Monday. His comments were followed by a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who announced the U.S. would offer “assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization.”
“The United States stands with French citizens, the city of Paris, [and] the millions of visitors from around the world who have sought solace in that iconic structure,” Sanders wrote. “The Cathedral has served as a spiritual home for almost a millennium, and we’re saddened to witness the damage to this architectural masterpiece.”
She continued: “Notre Dame will continue to serve as a symbol of France, including its freedom of religion and democracy.”
The fire, for which a cause hasn’t been determined, spurred an outpouring of grief across the globe, but many here in the U.S. couldn’t help but notice the White House’s deafening silence regarding three historic Black churches in Louisiana recently targeted in a string of arson attacks.
The three churches, Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, and St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, burned in a 10-day span between March 26 and April 4. Police arrested 21-year-old Holden Matthews for the fires, charging him with 3 counts of simple arson of a religious building, as well as hate crimes.
A GoFundMe page to support the churches’ rehabilitation efforts has raised over $1.1 million in a matter of days. A separate crowdfunding campaign for the three churches also collected more than $850,000 after it was widely shared on social media, The New York Times reported.
Still, there has been little to no help from the U.S. government.
It wasn’t long before critics took the Trump administration to task for rushing to France’s aid before offering to help the folks here at home.
“Nothing wrong w/offering aid, but it burns me up when here in U.S. we have 3 churches burned in Louisiana, Flint still doesn’t have clean water, Puerto Rico, etc., etc.” one Twitter user wrote. “Hey,
@realdonaldtrump, wtf happened to ‘American First’? Only when it fits your garbage narrative, I suppose …”
“As we hold Paris in our thoughts today, let’s also send some love to our neighbors in Louisiana,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged, sharing a link to a GoFundMe page. “Three historically black churches have burned in recent weeks, charring buildings, scattering communities. If you can, contribute to rebuilding funds …”
Other critics pointed to the aid still need in communities like Flint, Mich., were a water contamination crisis is still ongoing. The island territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also struggling to rebuild after two powerful hurricanes barreled through the Caribbean last year.
“Republicans’ argument against immigration is always ‘we need to take care of our own first,'” actor Steven Boyer tweeted. “Looks like by ‘our own,’ they don’t mean Americans in Flint or in Puerto Rico. I guess to them, ‘our own’ just means other white people, wherever they may be.”
Surgeon Eugene Gu agreed, writing: “Whereas Flint does not have clean drinking water, Puerto Rico hasn’t fully recovered, and 3 black churches burned to the ground without comment, Trump offers money to rebuild Notre Dame. That’s not America first. That’s white people first, even if they live in far away countries.”
[What about] “Flint? Puerto Rico?” several others wondered.
“Notre Dame has already received something like $675 million in donations since YESTERDAY (including an offer of help from the US Govt) but it’s only just now — *years late* — that Flint is getting necessary funding,” reporter Erin Biba opined, adding: “Our priorities are FUCKED.”
Back in France, President Macron has promised to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral and said the country will launch a fundraiser of its own. French billionaires, including LVMH luxury-goods chairman Bernard Arnault, have also pledged more than 500 million euros ($565 million) to rehabilitate the cathedral.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of Monday’s fire.