The Wrong Complexion for Protection

How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities

304 pages

4 figures, 6 tables

July, 2012

ISBN: 9780814799932


Robert D. Bullard is Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston and author of 17 books, including Environmental Health and Racial Equity in the United States.

All books by Robert D. Bullard

Beverly Wright is the founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) at Dillard University, New Orleans and co-chair of the Environmental Justice Climate Change (EJCC) Initiative and author of Race, Place and Environmental Justice after Hurricane Katrina.

All books by Beverly Wright

When the images of desperate, hungry, thirsty, sick, mostly black people circulated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it became apparent to the whole country that race did indeed matter when it came to government assistance. In The Wrong Complexion for Protection, Robert D. Bullard and Beverly Wright place the government response to natural and human-induced disasters in historical context over the past eight decades. They compare and contrast how the government responded to emergencies, including environmental and public health emergencies, toxic contamination, industrial accidents, bioterrorism threats and show that African Americans are disproportionately affected. Bullard and Wright argue that uncovering and eliminating disparate disaster response can mean the difference between life and death for those most vulnerable in disastrous times.


  • “The brutal realities of institutional racism in disaster readiness, response, and recovery are unveiled here in black and white, through compelling case studies, jaw-dropping statistics, and thoroughly documented sociological and historical data.”

    —David Naguib Pellow, co-author of The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. the Environment in America’s Eden

  • “A fascinating insiders’ account from the frontlines of the struggle to get the government to act fairly in the face of environmental injustice, with vast implications for future disasters.”

    —Timmons Roberts, co-author of A Climate of Injustice

  • "A fine overview for those interested in the subject matter. Summing Up: Highly recommended."


  • "The Wrong Complexion for Protection is an intellectual version of a 'greatest hits' album, combining autobiography and research findings to give a picture of the authors' important contributions to the field of environmental justice, and a picture of what environmental  justice has contributed to political science and other fields."

    —Patrick S. Roberts, Political Science Quarterly