The coded narrative about dangerous Black people in the aftermath of natural disasters has once again surfaced in the wake of Hurricane Florence, as images of survivors in Wilmington, North Carolina “looting” necessities were released.
Police arrested at least five people on Saturday who took items from a Family Dollar store in the city after a video from a local media outlet was posted on social media, ABC News reported.
As with most hurricanes, people living in low-income communities are hit the hardest. Most cannot afford to evacuate before storms hit and do not have the money to stock up on basic necessities like food, water and fuel, especially when stores practice price gouging.
They also lack the resources to survive the aftermath of flooding and widespread power outages. Wilmington received a record amount of rainfall, and highways are blocks by downed trees—leaving the city isolated.
Management of the Family Dollar did not want the police to intervene, but the Wilmington Police Department eventually decided to arrest suspects.
Social media posts showed mainly Black people labeled “looters” walking into the store and leaving with items.
This narrative of Black folks taking advantage of a natural disaster to steal isn’t new, according to Andy Horowitz, an assistant professor of history at Tulane, who wrote a book about Hurricane Katrina.
Horowitz recalled in the Washington Post that the myth of “savage” African Americans stealing goes as far back as the early 1900s after a devastating hurricane hit Galveston, Texas.
“The mythical language about ‘ghouls’ suggests that these scenes, like the myths about Black men raping white women that suffused the South at the time, were cooked up in the sociological cauldron of white fear. White people have long dreaded the specter of imagined Black predators, and the storm offered an occasion for white readers to revel in their racist fantasies,” Horowitz said.