Feb 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Texas power outage highlights inequalities for minority neighborhoods

Picture of a man holding a shovel standing in front of a car buried in snow.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Experts say that communities of color were hit with blackouts in Texas first and are likely to face more hurdles getting help or being able to recover financially.

Why it matters: "These are communities that have already been hit hardest with COVID," Robert Bullard, a professor and expert on wealth and racial disparities related to the environment, told The New York Times. "They’re the households working two minimum wage jobs, the essential workers who don’t get paid if they don’t go to work."

The big picture: The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power in the state, started conducting power outages to balance the demand and supply of the electric grid.

  • But, but, but: Urban and downtown areas, which have the most affluent residents, have been almost completely exempt from blackouts, with surrounding, underprivileged neighborhoods having to endure long blackouts, some of which last days, per The Washington Post.
  • "A vivid metaphor for the state’s entrenched inequities emerged Monday night: The illuminated Texas skylines of downtown buildings and newly filled luxury hotels cast against the darkened silhouettes of freezing neighborhoods," The Post writes.

This is not the first time marginalized neighborhoods are left as the ones to bear the brunt.

  • The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic people, and this winter storm shows how they continue to be the most vulnerable.
  • "It’s not just today. It’s not just this emergency. It’s every emergency," Natasha Harper-Madison, mayor pro-tem of Austin, told The Guardian. “These are the kinds of disparities that we see on a normal basis all the time. They just happen to be amplified because of the emergency.”

The bottom line: “These communities are gonna have to go back to work in a few days, when the snow melts,” Cecilia Corral, co-founder of CareMessage, a nonprofit focused on medical undeserved areas, told The Guardian. “Who’s gonna advocate for them, so that this doesn’t happen again?”

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