Disasters Do Not Treat Everyone Equally
It’s a popular thought: everyone suffers equally in a disaster. But in fact, that is not the case. Hurricane Katrina should have made us all aware of the truth, but there are those still spouting the lie after Hurricane Harvey. The facts speak for themselves.
NYU Professor Jacob Reames tweeted, “As I’ve been repeating ad nauseam, disasters replicate social cleavages and inequalities. They reproduce our longstanding chronic crises.” He is an expert in the field. You can read his book, Disaster Citizenship.
Southern Poverty Law Center wrote of a specific case in their recent newsletter:
“There was nowhere to go from the kitchen counter.”
“Trina Moore had already called the Coast Guard. The four children in her care were stretched out on top of the dishwasher, clutching pillows almost as big as they were while they slept. One little girl, hooked up to a ventilator, sat awake: She was watching the brown, murky water still rising towards her. It was 4:30 in the morning.”
“Moore and her family are some of the countless Texans who had to fend for themselves this week in the face of what the University of Wisconsin has determined was a one-in-1,000 year flood event that occurred when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston.”
“Moore… was forced to wade through her East Houston neighborhood pulling her two boys in a laundry basket and two girls in a trash can when the Coast Guard initially didn’t respond. She lives in one of three zip codes with the highest concentration of social media posts calling for help in the absence of first responders. All three neighborhoods are low-income and predominately black or Latino.”
Hurricane Harvey dumped a year’s worth of rain in a few days. The hurricane touched down three times. The devastation is widespread and almost unbelievable. You can read the story in numbers on ABC News here.
In addition to fighting for their lives after confusing information about whether or not to evacuate (assuming they could have), people have been robbed of what possessions were left, struggled to find shelter, and feared for their ability to avoid deportation.
SPLC says: “Nor will Houston’s most vulnerable residents necessarily get help when the city begins its recovery from this deadly disaster… President Trump pledged $1 million in personal funds to Hurricane Harvey efforts, but earlier this spring, his 2018 budget proposed more than $1 billion in cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Those cuts — which took aim at FEMA grants for both the preparation for and response to emergencies — ensure that an alarming proportion of the recovery will be under the purview of contractors.”
President Trump has already walked back his pledge of personal money to help the victims.
And we know what happens when recovery is placed in the hands of contractors because of our experience after Hurricane Katrina. Real estate developers, construction firms, and speculators descended on New Orleans. They secured no-bid, cost-plus government contracts and exploited the pool of cheap labor guaranteed by President Bush’s suspension in parts of the South of the Davis-Bacon Act, which required federally financed employers to pay the prevailing local wage to their workers. Companies like Halliburton made fat profits. The clean-up took years, and many citizens were never able to return to their home state.
Open your hearts. Open your wallets. Be careful of scams. If you personally know people who are suffering, help them in the ways they ask for help. This guide from ABC News includes Red Cross, and not everyone wants to donate to Red Cross, so use your own judgment.
You can always donate to SPLC or ACLU because they will be there fighting ICE, fighting for workers’ rights, fighting against corporations to who exploit workers.
DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in Danger
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an American immigration policy founded by the Obama administration in June 2012. DACA allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
As I write this column (on Labor Day), we learn that President Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.
Fight This Hate
Activist Jen Hofman says:
Action: Advocate passionately to keep DACA youth here in the US, their home.
Call: Your 3 MoCs today (lookup).
Script: Hi. I am from [ZIP] calling to ask [name] to support the bipartisan Dream Act that gives permanent legal status to DACA recipients. Is [name] committed to supporting S. 1615 (Senate) / H.R. 3440 (House)? Will s/he co-sponsor it?
Bonus: If you’re in AL, AR, ID, KS, LA, NE, SC, TX, or WV, call your attorney general using this script.
Sandra de Helen, author of the lesbian thriller Till Darkness Comes also pens the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series. She is a poet, journalist, and a playwright. Her plays have been produced in the Philippines, Ireland and Canada, Chicago, New York City, and in thirteen states. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Dramatists Guild. Her books are available online, at Another Read Through Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, and Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. Samples of her work are available on her website.