• Sophie Jones, Ph.D.

Flint. We Haven't Forgotten Even if Mass Media Did

A shout out to my McKinney-Vento brotha and fellow writer from the F-L-I-N-T. I'm originally from the D, but the water shit still bothers me to this day. In group, I had a chance to speak with someone legit touched by this colonizer mess. When the essence of a story is told in such a way that it opens your soul, it reminds of things taken for granted. I took for granted that my family remains untouched by this bullshit but could be because like Kanye said, "Bush don't care about Black people." Seems like we as Black people could stand to care more and stop taking that designer foot off the pedal. Off the box and now into the shit.

How do we accept what has happened in Flint or try to blame the people of Flint for the water crisis? How and why do we allow people to make jokes about “drinking brown water” as if that shit is funny? At least allow the problem to be fixed first before cracking jokes. Some will say people are just too sensitive. I'm pretty sensitive about killer water that hurts kids and traumatizes their development. Well, let’s see how sensitive they are when their kids are exposed to lead. Yet, there is little pressure being put on those responsible and slowed media attention.

“If the government fails us, we are supposed to hold them accountable, and they are to hold themselves accountable.” As I watched the Flint Water Crises hearings, all I saw were politicians showboating. Republicans were going after the EPA because they are under President Obama’s administration and the Democrats were going after Governor Rick Snyder. While money is allocated for resolving the issue, there’s yet to be a focus on the heavy lifting involved for all the children and adults affected by lead poisoning.

There was enough finger-pointing going around; however, an entire state government failed to protect the people of Flint. Meanwhile, the governor held his job, and Kwame Kilpatrick stayed in prison. I’m just saying. Punishment is not equal when concerning race. “If we punish one person for misallocation of funds, and affairs, we surely have to punish another for affecting an entire community and the future of the community. So, who was responsible for the Flint Water Crises? Was it the governor, the city, the EPA, the emergency manager, the mayor, Flint Water Department? All of them are responsible for the issue. The other piece was their reaction. What the people needed to see is an authentic response to the problem. I’ve heard leaders say this is an “unfortunate” incident. Beyond the poor choice of words when describing something that will potentially affect generations, some authenticity and earnest behavior would have been appreciated. While the governor was the target of the frustration because of his inability to relay any concern or outrage over the fact that our families, the elderly, and more importantly, children, we must not forget all those other individuals that were involved in the mismanagement of funds and lives.

We must also not forget the fact the job market in Flint has decreased so much; the water department expected and expects residents to pay ridiculous water bills to maintain a crumbling system. Where is that money? What’s even scarier is someone made a decision to change from Detroit water to Flint water to save money at the expense of people’s lives. None of this reflected directly on the governor, but you know how that goes. What we do know for sure is a few details. In March 2013, the city council voted to stop buying water from Detroit and join a pipeline project through the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) that was to pull water from Lake Huron. Detroit pulled out and stopped selling water to Flint. The KWA would not be done for three years, so Flint had to find water. Emergency Manager Darnell Earley implemented the plan to switch to Flint water. The switch was supposed to “save” money. Residents in Flint knew the plant needed upgrades. April 24, 2015, Mayor Dayne Walling officially cut the Detroit water supply because the information he received from our MDEQ indicated the water was safe. The complaints then started. What was even funnier, was General Motors refused to use the water, setting up an arrangement with the Lake Huron project. On January 2, 2015, the city officially notified residents the water is poor, but the discoloration wasn’t a red flag. Detroit says it will allow Flint to use the water and won’t charge the $4 million reconnection fee but Flint declined. The state continued to reassure the people of Flint that they were working on the problem when Mayor Walling reached out. Detroit again offered to provide water without a long-term deal. The emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose says, "Detroit is not in the plans for the future." The city council voted to reconnect to Flint water. Jerry Ambrose believes the idea is “incomprehensible.” A suit is filed to reconnect to Detroit water, but a federal judge dismisses. Circuit Judge, Archie Hayman, issues an injunction to roll back sewer rates by 35%. On September 2, the lead levels were listed as acceptable. On September 19, an increase in lead was discovered. On September 24, Hurley Medical Center issued a statement highlighting the lead levels in children since the switch. On October 1, Genesee County declares a public health emergency. The hope was for the governor to issue a state of emergency. The next day, the governor’s administration purchases water filters for Flint. On October 8, 2015, the governor announced a multi-million dollar plan to reconnect to Detroit (Associated Press, 2017). Mind you, it's 2022 and that was not long ago.

The damage is done, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make those involved pay for this disregard for human lives continuously. This won’t be the last time either. We, as a people, are responsible for making this issue as important as all the other nonsense that takes over the headlines. I don’t care about who is gay and why they came out nor about Donald Trump's crooked family, or Biden and his inability to forgive student loans. No...wait, I do care about that student loan shit since they prey on Blacks and keep us in debt.

We all know that if this were Bloomfield Hills or one of our other suburbs, this would have been resolved. We all know that this could lead to the gentrification of Flint. We know about White privilege. We also know that extensive work needs to be done. The point is to WORK now and get ACTIVE in resolving the issue AGAIN, putting pressure on the system COLLECTIVELY and be a power of change. We are all responsible for what’s next. To avoid this happening in another city, we as a people should make Flint the example. The statement is not just for Black people, but also for ALL residents. What’s even more important in this situation is education. I believe education and services are the primary solutions to fixing the infrastructure to restore the community of Flint and communities similar. What’s even more concerning is whether the colleges in Flint are stepping up to the table to do something versus Virginia Tech coming to the rescue again.

It’s interesting that Governor Snyder remained untouched and the former Mayor Walling was replaced by Karen Weaver. They got rid of her ass quick though too. Walling received false information and coincidently took the fall for the problems even though he was given false information by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Mayor Weaver was the perceived hero, and that faded. She was fortunate that things were already in play before she took the position, but feel party to Flint politics and idiocracy. Let’s hope that all the money going into Flint will be appropriated correctly. Actually, there were hearings to find out where the money went. Still unsure where the NAACP was in all this? I know they stopped by and made some statements, but have been relatively quiet and non-essential in the process. That's my way of saying they ain't shit either.

Just a note. McKinney-Vento kids are those youths that “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (National Center for Homeless Education Supporting the Education of Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness, 2015). There was an increase in homeless children in Flint as an outcome of the crisis. Children here have always shown perseverance and toughness. Purposely, grit is negated from the description because it’s inherent to Black people as a culture or the Black experience. Survival is embedded in culture – does not speak to the inputs of White society or lack thereof. Get inside, get involved, and don't take that foot off the gas. People are pulling the wool over our eyes and misinformation is another tool in further colonizing.

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