They compare and contrast how the government responded to emergencies, including environmental and public health emergencies, toxic contamination, industrial accidents, bioterrorism threats and show that African Americans are disproportionately affected. Bullard and Wright argue that uncovering and eliminating disparate disaster responses can mean the difference between life and death for those most vulnerable in disastrous times.
“This book constitutes a searing indictment of the decades old unofficial war the U.S. government has waged against African Americans with regard to natural and unnatural disasters. Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright pull no punches and tell it like it is. The brutal realities of institutional racism in disaster readiness, response, and recovery are unveiled here in black and white, through compelling case studies, jaw-dropping statistics, and thoroughly documented sociological and historical data. The authors demonstrate persuasively why so few African Americans trust their government and how this negatively affects all Americans.” --David Naguib Pellow, co-author of The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. the Environment in America’s Eden
“A tour-de-force: by merging sweeping histories of dozens of cases and a flood of numbers supporting their claims, Bullard and Wright have convincingly demonstrated a long history of unequal protection against industrial and ‘natural’ disasters across the U.S. South. A fascinating insiders’ account from the frontlines of the struggle to get the government to act fairly in the face of environmental injustice, with vast implications for future disasters.” --Timmons Roberts, author of A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans leaving death and destruction across the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama Gulf Coast counties. The lethargic and inept emergency response that followed exposed institutional flaws, poor planning, and false assumptions that are built into the emergency response and homeland security plans and programs. Questions linger: What went wrong? Can it happen again? Is our government equipped to plan for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters? Can the public trust government response to be fair? Does race matter?
Racial disparities exist in disaster response, cleanup, rebuilding, reconstruction, and recovery. Race plays out in natural disaster survivors’ ability to rebuild, replace infrastructure, obtain loans, and locate temporary and permanent housing. Generally, low-income and people of color disaster victims spend more time in temporary housing, shelters, trailers, mobile homes, and hotels—and are more vulnerable to permanent displacement. Some “temporary” homes have not proved to be that temporary. In exploring the geography of vulnerability, this book asks why some communities get left behind economically, spatially, and physically before and after disasters strike.