As the Flint Water Crisis continues to make headlines, political debates around the crisis start to become more complex. Recent arguments are labeling the crisis as environmental racism due to the lack of attention shown towards the situation. According to a Huffington Post article titled “The Racist Roots of Flint’s Water Crisis” written by Julia Craven and Tyler Tynes, majority of Flint’s population is Black and also poor. This raises the question “if this same situation had been placed in a predominantly white and rich community, would the state have beeen quicker to reach out and solve the problem?”
Craven and Tynes address this question by saying, “At the first democratic presidential debate of the year, Hillary Clinton issued a rallying cry for Flint’s predicament, saying that the crisis would have been handled differently if it happened in a white suburb outside of Detroit.”
Well we all know that actions speak louder than words. So if we’re acknowledging the racism behind this crisis, then why isn’t anyone doing something about it? Or at the very least, why aren’t we hearing more about this through mass media?
After doing some research on this topic, I came across a meme that stands as a counter-argument towards the accusation of environmental racism. The meme basically states that we can’t blame White republicans for the crisis because Flint’s city council members are mostly Black democrats, thus denying any correlations between race and the crisis.
While these arguments seem to either support or deny the idea that the lack of attention in dealing with Flint’s crisis might be categorized as environmental racism, others claim that the issue is actually rooted in both race and class. Craven and Tyler quote Carl S. Taylor, a sociology professor at Michigan State University, after their interview with him, in which he said, “It’s both a class and race issue. When you have companies there, they dump everything into the water and into poor communities. You can’t go dump it into affluent communities. They wouldn’t tolerate it on their land.” Prof. Taylor points out the direct correlation between class status and agency, and how this correlation can have an impact on the quickness and level of attention and care shown by the State towards a major crisis. It seems to me that the citizens of Flint are being taken advantage of due to their class status and are not able to fight for justice. This is a fine example of oppression in the 21st century.
So what can be done about this dilemma? I am not quite sure, however, I do think that the mass media needs to play a greater role in highlighting the racial aspect of the crisis so that people around the world can be well informed about the depths of the issue. Raising awareness may not solve the whole problem, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.