Micah Fields is from Houston, and received the Oxford American’s 2018-19 Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship. He lives in Helena, Montana, and his book about Houston’s story of development and storms is forthcoming from W. W. Norton.
A feature essay from the Spring 2019 issue.
As in all cities, the story of displacement and discrimination is as old as the municipality’s. And while it might seem like a somewhat ahistorical cheap shot to draw a direct, incriminating line from Spindletop’s boom to the swath of corporations that now dominates Houston and its high-risk neighborhoods, the residue of truth is there. Houston, like every other metropolis, abets the long history of industry-induced subjugation that manifests, visibly and invisibly, as endemic environmental racism. It’s written into the city’s code, embedded from day one in the place’s naïve aspirations of itself.
A flood is no cooperative beast. It doesn’t distribute itself uniformly. Its edges stretch and shrink, and Houston lay underneath a giant, erratic web of floods, not a single sea but multitudes of individual ones, sprouting like fungus in the city’s every depression.
With a backpack full of disposable cameras, Micah Fields walked over a hundred miles of Houston—his hometown, a city notorious for its “unwalkability”—to capture its vibrant communities and surprising geographical “idiosyncrasies.”