The horrific Flint water crisis where lead contaminated the majority-black city’s water system in 2014 was the result of systemic racism, according to a recently released report from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.
The 130-page report, officially titled, “The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through The Lens of Flint,” is the result of a year-long investigation where the commission held hearings, spoke to residents, toured neighborhoods and interviewed experts on the city’s history, environmental justice and local governance, reports Colorlines.
“A major focus of our report is to present recommendations intended to ensure that “another Flint” does not happen again—in Flint or anywhere in Michigan,” the report states.
The commission also notes its own shortcomings in averting the crisis, stating,
“In assessing our own actions in the months leading up to the Flint Water Crisis, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights acknowledge that we were not as proactive as we should have been in giving greater voice to your concerns of the tainted water. This was especially important because your voices were ignored by state, state appointed, and local officials. The Commission and the Department pledge to be more resolute in carrying out their unique role under the state Constitution in the future.”
To that end, the commission lays out recommendations to help ensure a crisis like Flint does not occur again in the state. Recommendations include:
1. The state’s Department of Civil Rights, which is responsible for protecting its constituents from discrimination, must improve at listening to its people. Their priorities must align with constituents’. Part of this includes bringing scheduled meetings to affected communities when appropriate.
2. The governor should mandate implicit bias training to his cabinet, all state departments and Mission Flint, the response group made up of key administration memebers which Governor Rick Snyder put together to discuss the incident. This would help state employees understand how structural racism affects decision making.
3. Michigan legislators should draft an environmental justice plan that welcomes public opinion and involvement.
4. The state should replace or restructure its emergency manager law, which contributed to Flint’s water crisis when the emergency manager decided to change the city’s water source with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s approval.
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