When I first learned about the lead poisoned water in Flint, Michigan, I checked two things: the percentage of poverty and the percentage of minorities in the city. When I realized that Flint was about 60 percent Black and a little over 40 percent are living below the poverty level I realized this all makes sense.
Try as we might, hope as we might, the obvious is still obvious under this political economic social system: Colored folks and poor people don’t count. If they did, Michigan’s governor would have been giving his plea for his criminal trial rather than the state of Michigan address last week.
Let’s be clear, a crime was committed, a crime as heinous and as vicious and as brutal as any crime committed by a sociopathic or psychopathic killer. And it’s absolutely psychopathic to make a decision about people’s drinking water — absolutely central to life — that would put people’s lives, including children, in danger and at risk for the sake of saving money.
Water is a human right. The United Nations has long backed this assertion. Decent drinking water is the least one should expect from a nation its president recently declared the most powerful in the history of the world.
Yes, the Michigan governor took decision making out of the hands of the people of Flint because of their impoverished condition and put it in the hands of an emergency manager. So in the United States, if your municipality is poor and Black enough you just may lose your democratic right (as nominal as they are) to decide your own fate.
What makes this crime so despicable is that the emergency manager made a decision that affected the health of Flint residents based on cost cutting. There were several things already known before the decision was made. When it was decided to switch water sources from Detroit to the Flint River, the decision makers, like everyone in town, knew that the Flint River had been a dumping ground and a well-known polluted water source.
It was known that the water had to be treated with a special process so that lead could not leech into the water supply. It has been reported that necessary water treatment would have cost as little as $100 a day. Now the state has to spend tens of millions of dollars on the back end when they could have actually saved all of this damage and trouble by doing the right thing the first time.
Neither the emergency manager nor the mayor listened to early complaints that there was something wrong. Instead the emergency manager and the bureaucracy began to blindly defend their decision without looking into the situation. When they realized they had to address it, they simply tried to justify what they had done by trying to find experts who would side with them that it wasn’t all that bad. The mayor, instead of trying to get to the bottom of it, waged a campaign of “The water is good enough for me and my family.”
Furthermore, what really makes this criminal is that when the powers were confronted with evidence they could no longer deny they engaged in a cover-up campaign. When that could no longer be sustained, they dragged their feet on making changes and are still dragging their feet when it comes to implementing solutions that could limit the resulting damage.
The governor should provide free health care to all of the people of Flint. All children should be given free checkups, and whatever health problem they are assessed with should be addressed. Kindergarten and Head Start should be made universal so that the young minds that have already been damaged can be engaged early on.
Only recently did the governor call out the National Guard and call upon the states’ resources to bring drinkable water to the people of Flint, and even that is not being carried out efficiently.
For those who unaware, lead poisoning is a serious problem. When children are poisoned by lead it could lead to brain damage, learning disabilities and memory loss.
The criminal Governor Snyder used this situation to slip in right wing conservative talking points. “Government failed you,” Snyder said during his address. But that isn’t true, the government didn’t fail Flint; Snyder failed Flint by taking away the right of the city to make their own decisions about their water supply.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to email@example.com.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.