“Like being in war, but without violence.”
Those powerful words were spoken by a Flint, Michigan resident regarding the city’s neverending water crisis. Residents of Flint have been living with tainted tap water for over two years now, and an unknown number of residents have suffered from lead poisoning.
As a predominantly African-American city, some Flint residents have questioned whether systemic racism or racial bias played any role in the delayed reaction to the water crisis.
“The truth is not appealing. And the truth is where the reaction may be strongest at the beginning. If you’ve been in denial and you hear something that is contrary to your beliefs, the first reaction is to discount, and to judge,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation based in Battle Creek. “You need to bring people together to reflect and reconcile stories around that this truth is a truth that needs to be reckoned with.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation effort last year and wants to carry out a similar campaign in Flint. However, the Flint water crisis is just one example of the ways environmental issues can intersect with race.
In addition to questions of institutional racism, the Flint water crisis also involves environmental issues, which seem to be on the rise lately. As Flint has faded from the headlines, some environmentalists are instead talking about the potential impacts of the controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall promised by President Donald J. Trump.
President Trump signed an executive order on January 25 for the construction of the wall along the U.S. and Mexican border. Although such massive projects could be a boon to the global construction equipment market, estimated to be worth approximately $145.5 billion, not to mention the 7.8 million construction workers in the U.S., the project could also have major environmental impacts as well.
“When you have such beautiful wilderness areas as we have here in Arizona, the idea of putting this large wall that prevents the migration of animals, that scars the earth itself, and especially knowing how ineffectual it is, is something that is just sad,” said executive director of Border Action Network, Juanita Molina.