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Giving Compass' Take:
• Emily Pontecorvo explains that hurricanes disproportionately harm communities of color, but a lack of media coverage on the subject means that the public isn't informed.
• What role can philanthropy play in expanding awareness and understanding of racial disparities in hurricane damage?
• Learn more about disaster relief and recovery.
When Hurricane Florence slammed into southeastern North Carolina in September 2018, the worst-hit communities were already dealing with a litany of hazards: poverty, pollution from coal ash ponds and lagoons filled with livestock waste, chemicals in the drinking water, not to mention many were still in the process of rebuilding after Hurricane Matthew tore through two years earlier. According to Naeema Muhammad, organizing director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, people in these largely black and brown communities in cities like New Bern and Lumberton, and rural towns like Faison, struggled to evacuate.
“People are pretty much left on their own to try to navigate out of danger,” Muhammad told Grist. When the flooding came, it flushed coal ash, animal waste, and human waste from wastewater treatment plants into the waterways, which spilled over riverbanks and into the streets. “People had to navigate through that water,” she said.
If you had been following coverage of the hurricane on one of the major nightly news shows at the time, you might have missed this story entirely. That’s because not a single segment that aired on ABC’s World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News, or the NBC Nightly News reported on the disparate impacts Florence had on marginalized communities, according to a new analysis by Media Matters.
The media watchdog nonprofit analyzed 669 segments produced by those shows from 2017 to 2019 covering seven hurricanes, including Florence, and one tropical storm. Not one addressed the fact that these extreme weather events did not affect everyone in their paths equally — that the devastation they brought to poor communities and communities of color was far worse — despite ample research highlighting this disparity.
“It does not come as a surprise at all,” Muhammad said of the study. “We have a lot of issues going on in the floodplain areas that do not get addressed by the media. It’s mainly because of the faces in those areas,” which are predominantly black, Native American, and Latino.
Read the full article about hurricanes harming communities of color by Emily Pontecorvo at Grist.