Rising seas and extreme storms pose risks to many coastal cities. And people of color are often the most vulnerable because they’re more likely to live in low-lying neighborhoods.

“Which means that when flooding happens, then they’re more likely to have their homes flooded out,” says Jacqueline Patterson of the environmental and climate justice program at the NAACP.

She says communities of color are also less likely to benefit from flood protection measures.

Levees and flood walls are often built where they protect the most expensive properties. And housing values in communities of color tend to be lower than in predominantly white areas because of longstanding inequities.

“We see that literally the people who are the most vulnerable are getting the least protection in those infrastructure choices,” Patterson says.

To help communities develop more equitable responses to sea-level rise and flooding, the NAACP runs free trainings.

Participants learn how to assess local flood risks, engage with community leaders, and advocate for solutions.

“We need to … replace the moneyed interests with heart and with concern for the communities and the people that are most vulnerable in our society,” Patterson says.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media