Twice now recently, I’ve heard the ‘Flint Water Crisis’ used as an example of the “systemic racism” that still exists in our country today. But there is nothing about the Flint Water Crises that smacks of racism.
Most recently a proposed USCCB pastoral letter on racism mentioned the Flint water crises. The letter “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” is being considered for approval during the bishops’ Nov. 12-14 fall general meeting in Baltimore. It said the Flint water crisis is “an example of systemic racism, due to “policy decisions that negatively impacted the inhabitants, the majority of whom were African-Americans.” But once again it seems, bishops in the U.S. are either poorly informed or not really in touch with reality.
A few weeks ago the assistant pastor of our parish mentioned the Flint water crises during a discussion we were having. He said that ‘millions of people in our country and our world are being denied basic human rights.’ I challenged him to show me where anyone in our country is being denied any of the 30 Human Rights as defined by the UN Charter on Human Rights. The Flint Water Crises was the only example he could come up with. I felt bad for him as I explained that his choice of an example was not a good one.
Bad Decisions don’t Equal Racism
The Flint water crisis is really just the latest example of incompetence, negligence, and bad decision-making by elected officials and civil servants. What’s ironic though is that the crises occurred because the city was actually trying to save money while still providing good, clean water. Previous bad political decision-making had led to a city on the brink of financial collapse and cost cutting was necessary.
Racism is, according to Merriam Webster, “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Google’s dictionary is a little bit clearer. It says racism is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
The Flint water crisis had nothing to do with prejudice, discrimination or antagonism based on race. It also had nothing to do with the belief that one race is superior to another. And no one was intentionally trying to deny anyone the right to clean water. The Flint water crises was, however, a lesson in how good intentions can sometimes have disastrous consequences.
The citizens of Flint were not intentionally being “denied clean water” nor were they the victims of “systemic racism.” They were unintentionally victimized by a series of bad decisions after a plan to lower the cost of water for the citizens backfired. The plan ran in to problems due to Flint’s really old water and sewer infrastructure with perhaps some incompetence thrown in for good measure.
Clean Water Ain’t Cheap
Despite being surrounded by the Great Lakes, water costs for many Michigan townships and municipalities have been on the rise for the last few years. This is due to old pumping plant equipment and infrastructure, and the need to upgrade and replace both equipment and pipelines. On top of this, the city of Flint specifically, was badly hurt financially in the 80s and 90s. When GM shut down a lot of their operations in and around the city Flint lost a lot of tax revenue.
In 2011 the political decision-makers in the city of Flint decided to reduce the water fund shortfall by building a new pipeline. The plan was to deliver water from Lake Huron to Flint. While the new pipeline was under construction, the city was going to use the Flint River as a temporary water source. And that’s where everything went south. Residents started complaining that the Flint River water looked, smelled and tasted funny. Iron water mains, lead pipes, and perhaps some incompetence when it came to treating the Flint River water led to a disaster for the city and its citizens.
If you are interested in finding out what happened in Flint, CNN, while not one of my favorite news sources, actually has a pretty good recap of the problem and a timeline of all the problems here.
Don’t get hoodwinked
As Catholics, and even as just good human beings, we should all abhor racism. But as intelligent, rationale human beings we should also not allow ourselves to be duped by false claims of racism. Such claims are really intended to further political aims and ideologies.
So the next time some social justice warrior uses the Flint Water Crisis as an example of the “systemic racism” that still exists in our country today or as an example of how citizens in our country are being denied basic human rights, do the person a favor and set them straight.
With the mid-term elections looming, would be representatives are making all kinds of outlandish statements about their opponents. ‘So and so is a racist’ is a new favorite. ‘So and so is anti-women’ is also fairly new. ‘So and so is in the pocket of big business,’ and ‘so and so is anti-immigration,’ are two of the more common slurs. Don’t let yourself be bamboozled by election advertisements. Take some time and research the candidates who are running for office and make intelligent choices.
As Catholics we must favor Pro-Life candidates over pro-abortion candidates. Any candidate who is outright pro-abortion believes that there is nothing wrong in murdering innocent human beings. Such candidates are not fit of office. And any candidate who says ‘I personally am pro-life but I support a woman’s right to choose’ is a hypocrite. Such candidates are compromising God’s teaching and their own religious beliefs in exchange for power. Such a candidate should hang his or her head in shame.
Vote wisely on November 6 or don’t bother voting at all.