Michigan Civil Rights Commission Report says Flint Water Crisis is Connected to ‘Systemic Racism’

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s Civil Rights Commission on Friday released a scathing report arguing that “systemic racism” played a part in Flint’s water contamination crisis.

The 135-page report delves into the history of race and racism in the Flint area and argues that historical practices like redlining — or only renting and selling property to black residents in certain areas of the city — white flight to the suburbs, intergenerational poverty and “implicit bias” all helped lay the groundwork for an economic situation in the city in which an emergency manager was needed in the first place.

Emergency managers were responsible for the decision to switch to the Flint River for the city’s water supply as a cost-cutting move in April 2014. That decision allowed the highly corrosive Flint River water to scrape lead from the city’s aging lead pipes into the drinking water.

At the same time, state officials failed to require corrosion control chemicals be added to the water — something required by federal law and done in cities across the nation to prevent similar situations.

“Systemic racism” then played a large part in the sluggish response to the crisis and officials’ attempts to delegitimize Flint residents’ concerns that problems with the water supply existed long before Snyder’s administration acknowledged an issue, the report argues.

“The commission believes that we have answered our initial question, ‘Was race a factor in the Flint Water Crisis?’ Our answer is an unreserved and undeniable — ‘yes’,” the report said.

“The people of Flint have been subjected to unprecedented harm and hardship, much of it caused by structural and systemic discrimination and racism that have corroded your city, your institutions, and your water pipes, for generations,” the report said.

“When the last of the civil lawsuits and attorney general criminal investigations are completed, and relief dollars from state and federal sources are exhausted, what will remain is a city and its people who will continue to fight against built-in barriers but whose voices — as a matter of public right — must never be stifled or quelled again,” the report states.

The report’s authors, Snyder appointees, say the people of Flint did not “enjoy” the equal protection of environmental or public health laws, they have not had a meaningful voice in the decisions leading up to the Flint Water crisis.

“Many argue they had no voice,” the report says.

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SOURCE: Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News