Listen to this article here
Latronia Latson, who lives in the Dunbar neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida, said she can’t get to a relief center to get bottled water and other necessities being distributed because she doesn’t have transportation; the bus system is not running in her neighborhood. Her stove and microwave have also mysteriously stopped working after Hurricane Ian, despite power being restored.
“They need to make it convenient for those that don’t have transportation,” said Latson, who is disabled. “We just don’t get the same service (as people in other parts of town).”
She isn’t alone in her critique. Vincent Keeys, president of the Collier County NAACP, stated residents in River Park were already more vulnerable due to it being a coastal community. Keeys alleges the city of Naples has worked to gentrify the area in recent years but has not built a sea wall that could provide more protection during hurricanes.
Additionally, the timing of evacuation orders has been a point of contention for Florida officials since the deadly storm. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said officials in Lee County, where Dunbar sits, acted appropriately when they issued their first mandatory evacuations less than 24 hours before Hurricane Ian made landfall on the state, and a day after several neighboring counties issued their orders.
Lee County officials have faced mounting questions about why the first mandatory evacuations weren’t ordered until a day before Ian’s landfall – despite an emergency plan that suggests evacuations should have happened earlier.
The aftermath of Hurricane Ian and Katrina tells a similar story
According to Talk Poverty, a Black homeowner in New Orleans was more than three times as likely to have been flooded as a white homeowner in 2005. That wasn’t due to bad luck; because of racially discriminatory housing practices, the high-ground was taken by the time banks started loaning money to African Americans who wanted to buy a home.
HBO’s “Katrina Babies” is an intimate, honest story that invites the viewer to bear witness to the catastrophe, trauma, racism, loss, grief, family, love, and community experienced by Black children after Hurricane Katrina. Edward Buckles, Jr., the director of “Katrina Babies,” states, “In America, especially during disaster, Black children are not even a thought. Nobody ever asked the children how they were doing. So I am.”
A decade after the storm, nearly 80 percent of white residents of New Orleans said that Louisiana had “mostly recovered” from the storm, while nearly 60 percent of Black people said the opposite, according to The Washington Post.
Even more recently, FEMA analyzed 4.8 million aid registrations submitted by disaster survivors between 2014 and 2018 and compared applicants’ income. The findings included:
- The poorest renters were 23% less likely than higher-income renters to get housing help.
- The poorest homeowners received about half as much to rebuild their homes compared with higher-income homeowners — disparities that researchers say cannot be explained by relative repair costs.
- FEMA was about twice as likely to deny housing assistance to lower-income disaster survivors because the agency judged the damage to their home to be “insufficient.”
- FEMA has not analyzed whether there are racial disparities in who receives money after disasters despite a growing body of research showing that people of color are also less likely to receive adequate disaster assistance.
The White House is aware of environmental racism, but will anything change?
Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledged the inequity suffered by Hurricane Ian survivors when she spoke last week at the National Committee Women’s Leadership Forum.
“It is our lowest-income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making,” Harris said. “And so we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity.”