OPINION: Notre Dame outrage proves societal inequities


Photo via WikiMedia Commons (Joalpe) under Creative Commons license

Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro and many historical artifacts being incinerated in the September fire. Why has there not been nearly the same amount of outrage and donations from celebrities and billionaires around the world compared with the recent Notre Dame tragedy?

On April 15, 2019, the world watched in horror as an intricately beautiful, 800 year-old French cathedral burned for hours. People everywhere shared their sincere condolences in different ways, and one way that many millionaires did so was by donating millions of dollars to Notre Dame’s reconstruction.

It is heartbreaking to know that a building that has survived so much history has been damaged by a random incident.

— Staff Writer Victoria Sponar

Now, when hearing the news of such an important historical building being burnt down, I was obviously devastated. It is heartbreaking to know that a building that has survived so much history has been damaged by a random incident.

What also upsets me, however, is the obvious unequal amount of attention and donations that this fire at Notre Dame received compared to the one at the National Brazilian Museum.

Last September, a fire broke out in Brazil’s largest museum, located in Rio de Janeiro, and burned 200 years worth of invaluable historical Latin American artifacts and thousands of years old relics, including dinosaur fossils, mummies, and many other archeological collections such as meteorites and the Americas’ oldest skeleton at 12,000 years old.

“It is an unbearable catastrophe. It is 200 years of this country’s heritage. It is 200 years of memory. It is 200 years of science. It is 200 years of culture, of education,” Luiz Duarte, a vice-director of the museum, told TV Globo.

Does this sound familiar? It should. That is similar to how people spoke of the Notre Dame catastrophe.

Brazil’s museum faced a much graver and irreversible damage that did not receive the same teary-eyed responses from the world.

— Staff Writer Victoria Sponar

The difference, however, is that Brazil’s museum faced a much graver and irreversible damage that did not receive the same teary-eyed responses from the world. None of these precious and unique artifacts that represented the essence of Brazilian culture can ever be retrieved, and this severely affected not only the Brazilian people, but Latin Americans as a whole.

Now, if you are reading this right now, I am assured that you had no idea that this tragedy hit Brazil. Why? It was just as devastating of a tragedy and, without a doubt, is a situation that would also appreciate the contributions of some fellow celebrities worldwide.

The sad truth is evident when one takes a look at these two events and sees how differently they were handled and viewed by the world. Barely any coverage over the Brazilian museum tragedy seems to have been shown to the rest of the world, meanwhile Notre Dame made headlines globally and has, as of now, already received $1 billion from philanthropists around the world after just a few days of its occurrence.

South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison spoke of this obvious imbalance in the handling of both situations. “In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame,” He says. “In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.”

The media and many rich celebrities … show us that they continue to glorify white-centered European tragedies…

— Staff Writer Victoria Sponar

Notre Dame can and will certainly be rebuilt, and while this was a dismal calamity, many pieces inside the Cathedral were able to be saved and the fire did not reach the entire building.

The largest natural-history museum in Latin America, however, was ignited completely and nearly every single priceless piece of culture was lost — yet there were not nearly as many teary-eyed celebrities tweeting about this or giving away thousands of dollars in order to help this educational building be rebuilt.

Imagine if the Smithsonian had suffered the same loss as Brazil’s National Museum. People everywhere would be heartbroken, and there would be an outrage. It would hit the news of every individual globally — why has that not happened with Brazil? Because it is not a rich, majority white European country.

The media and many rich celebrities, time and time again, show us that they continue to glorify white-centered European tragedies and choose to be sad over those incidents rather than also focus on the tragedies that occur everywhere throughout the world.

If billionaires can donate millions of dollars within a few days in order to help the repairs of a European church, then they should also do the same thing when much heavier tragedies occur in  non-rich and non-European parts of the world.

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