The Center for Sustainable Communities and The Department of Geography and Urban Studies present the 2021 Benjamin H. Kohl Social Justice Lecture
Dr. Laura Pulido
Departments of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies and Geography
University of Oregon
Wildfire Rumors and Denial in the Trump Era
In Fall 2020 the western U.S. experienced unprecedented wildfires in response to global warming and management practices. In the state of Oregon, numerous rural communities disseminated false rumors that Black Lives Matter activists and Antifa were deliberately setting the fires and preparing to loot vulnerable communities. In this talk I explore why such rumors developed in Oregon and argue that they arose in response to deep racial and political anxieties amidst a deeply polarized country. Specifically, the rumors emanated from the Far Right’s rejection of multiracial democracy and movements for racial justice. Accordingly, the rumors embody two forms of denial: Climate denial and denial of structural racism in the U.S. The experience of Oregon illustrates the degree to which white supremacy can impact areas seemingly unrelated to race.