When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, it was the city’s black neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the storm. Twelve years later, it was the black districts of Houston that took the full force of Hurricane Harvey. In both cases, natural disasters compounded issues in neighborhoods that were already stretched.
Climate change and racism are two of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century. They are also strongly intertwined. There is a stark divide between who has caused climate change and who is suffering its effects. People of color across the Global South are those who will be most affected by the climate crisis, even though their carbon footprints are generally very low. Similar racial divides exist within nations too, due to profound structural inequalities laid down by a long legacy of unequal power relationships.
For some, it can be disconcerting to hear terms such as “racism” and “white supremacy” used in discussions about climate change. Climate change is often understood as an environmental issue, one that we are all in together, and therefore not something that could be in any way construed as racist.