You have probably heard about the recent water contamination tragedy in Flint, Michigan. The contamination was a result of the local government switching the water supply to a local river in Flint back in 2014. You may have heard that even after people were losing their hair and getting extremely ill from the water, the state officials still disregarded these complaints. The unsafe water supply resulted in multiple deaths and exposed thousands of people, including children, to high levels of lead which got into their bloodstream. What not many people are informed about, however, is the fact that the Flint water crisis is a direct representation of environmental racism in America.
Environmental racism is placing low-income or minority communities close to hazardous environments that could have a negative effect on the health of the people. It is a fact that many low-income and minority families make up the city of Flint. Flint has a population of roughly 99,000 and around 57% of the residents are black or African American, with 41% of the population live below the poverty line. The local government in Flint decided that its residents, already struggling to live on their incomes, would be fine drinking from a nearby river that was in fact polluted.
The government’s decision was all about saving money. The interests of the people of Flint were not taken into account, but rather how much money was in the government’s pocket was the chief concern. The people of Flint were poisoned by the lead in the water. After various complaints, the government still did nothing to help the people of their own city and even stated the water was safe to drink.
The people in Flint are struggling with a corrupt government, and they have nowhere to go because a large proportion is already well below the poverty line. If Flint was a white community, it’s doubtful that they wouldn’t have drinking clean water currently.
Environmental racism is not a new thing. It has happened numerous times in this country before. After Hurricane Katrina, members of the black community were stuck in the worst parts of the flood and the response from the government for help was incredibly slow.
Environmental racism has happened right here in Syracuse too, where almost 40% of the residents live below poverty. In 2005, a sewage treatment facility was put into a residential, mostly black, area of Syracuse. Sewage plants are severely detrimental to health due to the effects they can have on the drinking water. Even after many protests by the residents, who tried to explain the dangers of living near a sewage plant, the plant was built and remains there. Many believed that if the majority of the residents in the area were white the plant would never have been built.
People need to understand that the unfortunate things that happen to minority communities are not by chance. Purposeful neglect by the government, for monetary reasons, has put the lives of innocent citizens in danger. Systemic and environmental racism is an epidemic in America that college students should really be concerned about, even if you don’t think it has an effect on you. Learning and educating yourself on these important topics can make a difference.