By Rosetta Miller Perry
The photos coming out of North Nashville are surreal. People from all walks of life have been impacted by this catastrophic tornado. Some white, some Black, some old, some tenderly young. But Mother Nature isn’t racist.
She doesn’t discriminate — our Nashville system does, and especially the mainstream media.
When disaster strikes, not everyone experiences the same impact.
If you’re a Black homeowner who lives in North Nashville you were ignored by the white press and government, even though Blacks were there before gentrification. This doesn’t mean Blacks won’t suffer, or that this tornado won’t be traumatic for a Black person. It just means that Blacks will not have an easier road to recovery as those whites who moved into Black neighborhoods. You have already seen this as white media has ignored the Black community totally from day one as if the tornado only affected the white transplants in North Nashville.
Easy, of course, is relative, because none of this is easy for anyone going through it. But imagine being Black, and living paycheck to paycheck because of racism in employment in Nashville, especially in city government. That’s another level of trauma Blacks have gone through with every mayor. Vote them in, then they give all the good jobs to whites.
The last time I looked I found Mother Nature isn’t racist, but Nashville’s systems most certainly are. And they ignore people of color’s well-being when they push them out of their neighborhoods. When they fail to provide enough of a safety net so that vulnerable communities can push through when hell goes down, as it currently is.
So when natural disasters hits the Black community in North Nashville don’t blame Mother Nature; blame institutions, historic and systemic racism, and the people behind these institutions, systems, and history. Also blame the city itself.
Did some Nashville officials know this was coming and knew who’d suffer the most – the Black community.
Below are some reasons that lay out how and why people of color are disproportionately impacted when struck by such tragedies as this tornado.
Segregation in Nashville never ended, it just took on a new name: redlining.
This real estate practice, dating back to the 1930s after the Great Depression, broke up neighborhoods by their race and the greater risk to mortgage lenders — happened to be made up of Black people.
This led not only to continued segregation, but also disinvestment in communities of color. And it prevented communities of color from building wealth by buying homes because mortgage lenders refused to loan any money to Blacks in a Black community.
Nashville, as it stands, repeatedly fails to provide enough support to vulnerable communities so that they can properly weather disasters like a devastating tornado.
So, while it’s tempting, don’t blame Mother Nature in times like these. Instead, let’s focus our attention on our problematic institutions, systemic racism, and discriminatory history of Nashville — they are what got us where we are today.