Why Is It So Hard For Black Communities To Rebuild After Natural Disasters?

photo of a house in st bernard parish in louisiana sunken in water during hurricane katrina
Briona Lamback
October 23, 2022

Hurricane Ian recently tore through Florida, and residents in Black neighborhoods like Dunbar in Fort Myers are being neglected. 

There’s a long, ugly history of abandoning our people during natural disasters.

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, recovery funds favored white homeowners over us, although our people were most affected. 

With Hurricane Katrina, many didn’t receive the needed resources and instead were pushed out of New Orleans. Today the city has 92,000 fewer Black residents than before the disaster.

Several studies show that the government provides less aid to Black people facing disaster relief compared to whites. When we aren’t straight-up denied relief, they systematically keep us from disaster aid.

In many parts of the deep South, like Hale County, Alabama, Black families who own land have passed it down through generations informally, without using deeds or wills. 

This custom dates back to the Jim Crow era when they excluded us entirely from the legal system. But without formal deeds, disaster survivors can’t receive federal loans or grants to rebuild.

Environmental racism is systematically oppressive and has affected our people for centuries. We don’t deserve this. During times like this, we must lean on each other and rely on our communities to pull through.

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