Thoughts from one of the REAL GIRLS
(Featured photo shows the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys. Credit: Matt McClain/AP Retrieved from the Guardian.)
In wake of Hurricane Irma hitting Florida this week, I saw on my Facebook feed that friends who attend schools in Florida, South Carolina, and other schools within Irma’s path safely flew to somewhere unaffected by the storm, like Maryland. But as I thought about this, I realized that not all are fortunate enough to catch a flight to safety, nor do we all have friends and family outside of our home state for us to seek refuge from for a few days or weeks. While natural disasters do not discriminate who they affect, being able to flee to safety in lieu of events like Irma is nonetheless a privilege.
Darlena Cunha expresses this mentality in her piece for the Washington Post by saying that “being prepared is a luxury,” and she is correct. Ultimately, money is necessary to buy flights, bus tickets, gas, flashlights, water, food, and emergency supplies and equipment. But what about those who cannot afford to leave or buy supplies to sustain themselves? For those who stay behind, they are labeled as “stubborn,” “lazy,” and “negligent,” but the harsh truth is that for most, they are unable to leave either due to lack of funds, disability, or the fact that they just have nowhere else to go.
Instead of labeling these victims of natural disasters, we need to acknowledge that class, race, and gender can and do play a role in situations like Irma. Class based on monetary value, like the upper class and middle class, clearly illustrate the privilege of wealth and how these individuals are more likely able to afford a flight or bus out of Florida to somewhere out of the storm’s range. Issues like race and gender may seem more debatable, but they are present. People of color consistently are making less than white individuals and are subject to more prejudice. Along with race, intersections like gender also put individuals at a disadvantage. For example, a female, Black individual is at a higher disadvantage than a woman who is white, even though both face a gender inequality, such as the unfair wage gap. While Irma isn’t seeking to worsen the situation for individuals already facing prejudices, less privileged individuals due to class, race, or gender are more vulnerable to natural disasters due to their inability to prepare or escape. So, instead of branding individuals with negative words, we should be providing our support in this time of hardship and reevaluating how disaster and evacuation plans can be more inclusive.