In this country, the idea of no access to clean water is almost unthinkable.
Government officials ignoring calls for a solution to such a problem is even more unbelievable.
Both of those things happened in Flint, Michigan, beginning in 2014, and the issue is still not resolved.
To put it simply, this is what many call environmental racism.
Environmental racism is discrimination through policies and regulations that negatively affect the environment of low-income communities or specific races.
The crisis in Flint fits this definition on every level.
Flint is a city where 40 percent of people live in poverty and the community is predominantly black.
When Flint officials diverted their water from Detroit’s supply to the Flint River in mid-2014, citizens immediately raised questions. But with limited political power, their questions went ignored.
Despite complaints of illness, high lead levels and dangerous bacteria, nothing was done, even when scientists vouched for all of the claims.
Children were hospitalized over high lead content in their blood.
The crisis only came to light in late 2015; the story is just now making national news.
Even with worldwide criticism, the Flint government refuses to acknowledge the discrimination. They have switched back to water taken from Detroit, but reports say it is still unusable.
An entire city is currently relying on donated bottled water for drinking, bathing and cooking.
Now, the city government is forcing Flint citizens to pay water bills regardless of the quality of the water.
Poor black Americans were ignored and ridiculed by their own government for years, and when proven to be right, are forced to pay for water they are not using while their health is in shambles.
It’s environmental racism.
Whether conscious or not, Flint officials dismissing complaints from the community is an example of prejudice through willful ignorance.
To assume comments from low-income people of color are insincere or irrelevant shows harmful assumptions about these groups.
Officials from state agencies even went so far as to vilify the victims of situation, saying they were making complaints simply to start “a political football.”
Couple this with the consideration that these communities have little political power to create a solution or even media buzz, the Flint crisis was a recipe for disaster from the beginning.
Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, was quick to point out that this situation wouldn’t have happened in a wealthy suburb. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton later made a similar comment.
An investigation into the Flint government is happening now, but the residents of the city are still suffering without clean tap water and may continue to suffer for some time.
We should make an example out of Flint while the magnifying glass is focused on it.
Hopefully those in power will take note and think twice before discriminating against Americans in this dangerous way.