Title: Representation of Minorities in Natural Disasters Literature

Title: Representation of Minorities in Natural Disasters Literature, 1885-1930
Authors: Graham A. Tobin, S. Elizabeth Bird, and Richard Salkowe
Affiliation: University of South Florida
Abstract: An examination of selected disaster literature from the late 19th and
early 20th centuries reveals social and economic vulnerability issues that parallel
many current concerns and also offer an historical perspective on attitudes that
prevail today. While Hurricane Katrina focused media attention on the differential
vulnerability experienced by ethnic minorities, this preliminary review suggests
that ethnicity has long been a key issue, not only in the real experience of victims
of disaster, but also in the public perceptions of those victims. In this paper, we
examine the portrayal of ethnic and racial minorities in the aftermath of several
historical disasters, arguing that entrenched racial attitudes may surface in a
situation of stress and threat; for instance, minorities may be depicted as less
rational and less deserving of help. Emergency response has made significant
advances with the development of more sophisticated relief organizations from
different governmental and non-governmental levels. However, while there is
improvement in support for vulnerable groups, their depiction in the media often
remains a major concern. The parallels between older representations and the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are apparent and provide more lessons for hazard