Communities of color are hurting the most from rising gas prices

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“High gas prices are not making people’s daily lives any easier,” said community activist Samual Brown.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gas prices in the United States soared long before Russia invaded Ukraine. But the price at the pump has risen even faster since the start of the war.

According to AAA, the national average gas price was $4.32 on Monday. California leads the nation with the highest gas price, averaging $5.74. Gas prices tend to be higher in California than in other states. This is partly due to higher taxes for infrastructure and environmental costs.

As gas prices continue to climb, many people, especially in historically marginalized communities, are trying to find a way to make ends meet.

Samuel Nathaniel Brown lives in Sacramento. After spending nearly 25 years in prison, he turned away from crime to become a leader and activist in black communities. As co-founder of the nonprofit Anti-Violence Safety and Accountability Project, Brown is on a mission to break the cycle of violence and address its harms by dismantling systemic racism.

“High gas prices don’t make people’s daily lives any easier,” Brown said. “We are still budgeting in our communities. We are rationing how much we are going to spend on gas per month.”

When Brown was released from prison in December, the state of California gave him $200 for basic needs. Under California law, the state pays newly released prisoners $200 under a stipend program, often referred to as “gate money.”

“With rising prices for gas, rent, food and everything else, what we have to survive makes us feel like we’re unwanted in society,” Brown said. “I was able to survive because I have a strong support network by the grace of God. I work hard every day. Nevertheless, even with this hard work, it is still difficult.”

According to a recent report from the US Department of Labor, inflation is also driving up consumer prices. This includes goods and services, such as food and energy. The US Department of Labor defines inflation as the general upward movement in the prices of goods and services in an economy.

A 2021 report from Bank of America shows that inflation is hitting communities of color harder than others. The researchers also found that blacks, Latinos and people living in rural areas spend the majority of their money on goods and services that have seen the highest price inflation, such as energy, food, cars and household items.

California lawmakers say they want to help consumers, especially at the pumps. Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a “gasoline tax rebate,” while other lawmakers suggest “reducing the state tax on gas suppliers.” Despite the latest proposals from lawmakers, many communities of color, low-income families and others are in desperate need of financial assistance.

“The gas tax holiday is a terrible idea,” Brown said. “First and foremost, it puts businesses above individuals. When it comes to gas tax refunds, while the intentions are good, we don’t need help in the end. Anyway, we need help now.”

Brown, for his part, calls the gas spike a crisis in California. He wants the government to provide a monthly loaded debit card – similar to the EBT system – to historically marginalized communities to use only for gas.

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