Marginalized Communities Are Disproportionately Affected by Texas Power Crisis

by Jess Ferguson
March 7th, 2021

Texas recently experienced a power crisis following two unexpected winter storms, leading to mass power outages that lasted multiple days for some. Other states, including Louisiana and Arkansas, also experienced the effects of this storm. While people across all demographics were impacted by this crisis, low-income people, BIPOC, and disabled people were disproportionately affected.

People who fall under these marginalized communities often do not have the same means as wealthier people to both make it through the crisis and survive the aftermath, including what will likely be rising utility bills, The New York Times reports. Privileged people, such as Ted Cruz, who tried to go to Cancún, Mexico, were able to relocate during the outages, minimizing the effects they may have otherwise experienced. If they were left without heat, perhaps they could stay at their summer home or a nearby hotel, or use a generator instead. However, that was not the case for many people.

Non-Black neighborhoods, especially Black and Hispanic ones, experienced problems before most others, and will continue to experience effects long after the crisis is over, the NYT adds. These areas are also the same ones with pre-existing issues, such as poor insulation and older pipes. Many of these groups are already paying high utility bills to compensate for the infrastructure problems, so increasing power bills will make these payments even more difficult. The Texas Tribune also reported that the areas that still had power were those in the vicinity of hospitals and other essential buildings—which are not often found in these low-income communities with primarily BIPOC and disabled people. Some could also rely on their cars as a source of heat, or a way to charge their devices; however, those who don’t own a car and instead rely on public transportation—often those in marginalized communities—are not granted the same privilege. An additional problem is the lack of accessibility in the state’s communication.

The Texas Tribune notes that there wasn’t any translated or direct correspondence for non-English speakers, of which there are many in a state like Texas. These people are most often BIPOC, further emphasizing the divide between the privileged and the disadvantaged.

Disabled people have long been neglected from any plans during times of crisis and disaster. During 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake, disabled people were twice as likely to die compared to the generation population, and those who were able to get to a shelter or help center were often not accommodated, leaving them to seek help elsewhere. In the aftermath of these disasters, millions of disabled people are displaced, a figure that is considered “highly conservative.” Additionally, as with non-English speakers, some correspondence may not be accessible to those with disabilities, especially those with hearing or vision loss.

These groups are also the ones who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, adding to existing problems with health and finances. Non-white, especially Black and Hispanic, neighborhoods have been the ones most impacted by the pandemic, for reasons ranging from their housing situation to health care to their careers. Those who lost their jobs or are experiencing other troubles (financial and otherwise) due to COVID are forced to deal with another event that throws off their daily lives. Time and time again, we can see that these marginalized communities are most vulnerable to disasters, both during and after.

As Texas and other southern states begin dealing with the aftermath of this power crisis, hopefully, they will consider the disproportionate impacts in their planning for future disasters, and be more accessible to those most affected. This is not a new problem; however, hopefully, this recent event will encourage people to look more into why people experience the same event differently, and what we can do to change that.