The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s failure to account for systemic racism and climate change is compounding the harm caused by those interconnected phenomena, Prism reports. FEMA, tasked with preparing for and responding to major floods and other disasters, also administers the National Flood Insurance Program.

Centuries of segregation and economic inequality shoehorned Black Americans into living in neighborhoods more vulnerable to climate change — in part because flood zones were the only places formerly enslaved Black residents could find safety. This racism was then enshrined in public policy through redlining during the Great Depression and historically redlined neighborhoods are now 25% more likely to flood and Black residents currently have a 10% higher risk of living in an area at risk for flooding.

Federal problems combine with local politics as real estate developers are allowed to build in flood plains without disclosing risks to buyers and well-resourced (whiter) communities are able to elbow their way to the front of the line for post-disaster aid. All of these failings combine to force impacted communities to work together despite the dearth of outside assistance. Contrary to white man savior narratives often perpetuated after disasters, “Generally, the heroes in the story are also residents from that town who are also Black and brown,” said Newark’s Nicole Miller. (Prism Reports)