Evacuating While Black, Brown, or Poor Highlights the Unexpected Benefits of Privilege
By: Lisa M. Hayes – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
While millions of Americans on the Carolina and Georgia coasts are filling up their gas tanks and evacuating their homes to safety, millions of others aren’t. As we watch the coverage showing people who aren’t evacuating the same question always comes up. Why doesn’t everyone just leave?
Yes, some people stay because they enjoy the thrill.
Some people stay because they want to protect their property.
Some people stay for the hurricane party.
However, a lot of people who should evacuate stay for reasons many people can’t understand that have nothing to do with the party. For a variety of reasons people who live in poverty often find it impossible to evacuate. Additionally for many reasons people of color are disproportionately affected by hurricanes.
When you consider evacuation or are told you have to evacuate, there are many things you have to take into consideration.
Do you have a vehicle to evacuate in?
Is your vehicle in good enough repair to manage an evacuation of potentially hundreds of miles without breaking down?
Do you have the money for fuel even if you’re stuck in traffic at an idle for hours?
Will it be safe for you and your family to be on the road in an evacuation zone?
Do you have someplace safe to evacuate to? If so, will you be allowed to take your pets?
Do you have money for a hotel if you can’t find shelter – potentially for days or weeks?
Yes, there are shelters – but not all shelters take pets. Additionally, not all shelters are set up to accommodate people with disabilities or who have specific medical needs.
Yes, most cities offer some form of mass transit evacuation options. However, those options are often difficult to access. If you live in a rural area there may be none of those options available forcing you to go into a city when everyone else is trying to get out.
One-fourth of the black population in the U.S. lives in the five states most vulnerable to hurricane damage: Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama (Klug 2017).
Neighborhoods of color are more likely than white neighborhoods to have broken, outdated, or altogether nonexistent flood prevention infrastructure like drainage ditches, levees, and flood channels.
Information about an incoming hurricane is most often disseminated only in English. Undocumented migrants face deportation or detainment if they evacuate or seek aid at disaster shelters. The Trump administration has set up ICE checkpoints on evacuation routes and set up raids in shelters.
Black and brown people die from natural disasters at disproportionately higher rates than white people. This is probably because housing policies and redlining relegate people of color to older, more poorly constructed homes with outdated safety codes and inspections (Fothergill, Maestas, & Darlington 1999).
Many Atlantic Native American tribes are state recognized but not federally recognized, so they do not receive any federal natural disaster aid.
A long history of oil companies squatting or stealing tribal lands has also left Native American lands riddled by channels dug to transport oil rigging equipment in and out. These channels unnaturally increase the amount of flooding in Atlantic Native American communities during hurricanes, and flooding wreaks permanent destruction on their hunting and agricultural grounds (Verdun, Naquin, & Foret, 2005).
Black, low-income neighborhoods are more likely to decline after a natural disaster, while white, high-income neighborhoods are more likely to improve.
White neighborhoods are more likely to enrich after recovery from a disaster, while black neighborhoods either physically deteriorate or are redeveloped and gentrified, forcing the migration of the black community that once lived there. Neighborhoods in areas that are most impacted by natural disasters mostly become smaller, older, and whiter during the recovery process. White, high-income neighborhoods receive disproportionately large amounts of financial aid following natural disasters, probably due to a greater fluency and intimacy with governmental institutions, and a larger, more sympathetic national audience (Lee, 2012).
Media labels the practice of black and brown people taking food or other necessities from abandoned grocery stores “looting,” but calls the practice of white people doing the same, “finding.”
The villainization of at-risk populations during and immediately following a hurricane are a media favorite. White supremacist vigilantes and police alike seize the opportunity of post-hurricane devastation and chaos to systematically execute black men, using anti-looting rhetoric as a defense and rarely facing consequences.
People of color are at a significantly higher risk anytime they encounter law enforcement. During an emergency almost emergency encountering law enforcement is a likelihood. Families who’ve been traumatized by police interactions in the past are much less likely to evacuate in favor of sheltering in place.
People of color are significantly more likely to lose a job during an evacuation period, even if the evacuation is mandatory. The risk of ongoing economic damages for people of color are high and often very difficult to predict.
So, while you’re complaining about how inconvenient and stressful evacuating is, you might take a moment to be grateful you have the option to get in your car and sit in traffic. Not all of your neighbors will be joining you there.
Partial source: Zoom Out
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Lisa M. Hayes, Senior Editor of Confluence Daily.
Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.