In Trump’s America, Flint Residents are Still Poisoned
After experiencing a man-made water crisis, that left an entire city without clean drinking water, and an overwhelming number of children now facing a lifetime existence with lead poisoning. Residents in Flint Michigan have faded away from the mainstream conversation, and the consequences of this are catastrophic.
As Donald Trump doubles down on his incompetence, and bumbles the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey, the state of Michigan has decided they should start collecting fees for the water they are responsible for tainting, leaving thousands of families at risk of losing their homes.
But how did we get here? How did a city that was once thriving with middle-class jobs, and economic opportunity, become the ground zero of environmental racism? The answer is simple. Money. While Flint was once the home of some of the biggest auto companies. Automation and cheap labor have stripped much of the jobs from that community. The Great Recession was a gut punch to whatever opportunity remaining.
With fewer people working and less income, the city of Flint began to suffer and was unable to pay much of its bills. This created the perfect atmosphere for Republican Governor Rick Snyder. With the city in dire straits, Snyder was able to move swiftly and without much pushback. He appointed a city manager to deal with the economic issues, then gave the manager power to supersede the city’s government structures.
That city manager, Darnell Earley with the instructions to find money through cuts, saw Flint’s water supply, which came from Detroit as an unnecessary financial Burden, especially when getting their water from the Flint River was cheaper.
Rick Snyder liked this idea and approved it, without doing an environmental impact study, without addressing the history of auto companies dumping dangerous chemicals into the Flint River, without consulting the community, or a plan b if something went wrong. From 2013- present day, we saw how those decisions impacted the people of Flint. A state of emergency, a Legionnaires disease outbreak, and 100,000 people contaminated with lead poisoning.
But all of this happened while we were watching. Since President Obama’s famous visit, in which he drank a cup of “Flint Water” to endorse its safety. Most families still do not have access to clean tap water. It would be more than fair to accuse President Obama of not doing enough to help these families, but in the Trump Administration, absolutely any hope of support coming from the government has faded away. With no threat of an actual watchdog, the Republican run state has gone back to the kind of business first policies that hurt people in the first place.
For example, while families with no choice but to remain where they are, attempt to pick up the pieces and make the best of a bad situation. The state of Michigan has decided to let corporations and the one percent do as they please. Currently, Nestle is pumping more than “130 million gallons of water a year from a well near this northwestern Michigan town to bottle and sell.”
While Nestle gets access to a stable water supply, the same governor whose policies poisoned the water for an entire city, is now giving the ok to kick families who haven’t paid their water bill out of their homes. Earlier this year, “The city’s treasury department sent letters to more than 8,000 residents warning them they will face a tax lien if they do not pay water and sewage bills they have avoided for six months or more.” Despite refusing to be held accountable for his own failure in leadership, the Governor would now like to punish people for refusing to pay for tainted water.
This turn of events shouldn’t come as a surprise. From the beginning of this crisis, Snyder’s administration has shown a gross dismissal towards the real people suffering. According to the New York Times, Flint officials spent months belittling complaints about the water coming from the residents.
Our elected leaders spend most of their day’s creating this fantasy about “American Values” they use it to propagate the institution of war, shame people that don’t follow the narrative, and as justification for sustained colonization. But when you look under the hood, it’s clear that this fantasy is a lie. Over 100,000 people in Flint Michigan are proof of this lie, and everyday that we lose focus on their struggle, a black body will suffer the consequences.
In this age of Trumpism, and mediocre whiteness, we must keep our eyes on the people of Flint. Because the minute we forget, they will lose a lot more than just their drinking water.