Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Was Racism At The Heart Of The Flint Water Crisis?

Almost three years ago, in April 2014, the lives of the people living in Flint, Michigan, were forever changed. Their drinking water became unsafe and unclean and over 100,000 citizens were allegedly affected by high levels of lead in their water. The water crisis is a suspected cause behind up to 10 deaths in the surrounding county, and has still yet to be completely resolved. Now, though, as the crisis creeps on and residents continue to be advised to drink only from bottled water, a new report out of a Michigan-based civil rights group claims that racism allegedly played a role in the Flint water crisis and the slow public reaction.

Update: In a statement to Romper, Gov. Rick Snyder's office said "Some findings of the report and the recommendations are similar to those of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, the legislative panel and the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee. The Governor takes the reporting of each of these panels very seriously, and appreciates the public input that was shared. He has appointed an Environmental Justice Work Group to build on this work and conduct their own review statewide. We have been and continue working to build strong relationships between state government and every community we serve to ensure a crisis of this magnitude never happens again in Michigan."

A civil rights commission, appointed by the government to investigate the Flint water crisis has officially concluded that systematic racism allegedly played a significant role in the water crisis that has been affecting the citizens of Flint for several years now. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission published a report on Friday that states their findings in the crisis, and concludes that while no civil rights were technically violated, there were severe consequences due to systematic racism "that repeatedly led to disparate racial outcomes as exemplified by the Flint Water Crisis."

As those familiar with the Flint water crisis are likely aware by now, the city of Flint is predominately black, with only 37.4 percent of residents classified as white. This fact alone could arguably point to racial bias being an issue for the water crisis, given how little attention much of those in power paid to the city, but that's not all the report indicates. According to the research, which oversaw three public hearings and through "sworn testimony, those of subject experts and field visits," structural discrimination against the citizens of Flint was allegedly at the root of the city's water crisis.

The report states that the implicit bias in Flint has been going on for many years, even centuries past, as the segregation of black communities was implemented in the town. Due to this, the commission claimed, the conclusion was that inherently racist practices were allegedly at the heart of the problem from the beginning.

The report also stated that,

[...] if you were an African American or an immigrant from certain countries, it was almost impossible for you to buy a home outside a few neighborhoods designated for people of color.

Because of this, the commission claimed, unequal access to education, proper housing, jobs, and more were still present in Flint, and hadn't been properly addressed. The report also alleged that if such a crisis were to have taken place in a majority-white city, such as Ann Arbor or Grand Rapids, the response and resolutions may have been much quicker, or perhaps wouldn't have ever happened in the first place.

While this report is still new to the public, it does suggest several recommendations for how the government should go about resolving this crisis, and ways to ensure something this catastrophic never happens again. One of these possible solutions, the group argued, would be for "the Governor’s office [to] invite experts on implicit bias to provide training on implicit bias to the Cabinet and MissionFlint, and require all state departments, including DHHS and DEQ, to do the same for their staff."

Romper has reached out to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, Sens. Gary C. Peters and Debbie Stabenow, Gov. Rick Snyder, and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver for comment on the report and is awaiting a response.

For now, the water crisis in Flint continues.