FLINT, MI – The Michigan Civil Rights Commission believes racism was a factor in the Flint water crisis, according to a newly released a report.
After a nearly year-long probe, the Commission determined that the actions resulting in nearly 100,000 people being exposed to Flint’s lead-tainted water abridges the civil rights of Flint residents under Michigan law.
“Policy makers, government leaders, and decision makers at many levels failed the residents of Flint,” said Agustin Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “By not challenging their assumptions, by not asking themselves the tough questions about how policy and decisions play out in different communities, especially communities primarily made up of people of color, those decisions and actions – or in some cases, lack of action – led to the tragedy taking place in Flint.”
The more than 100-page report outlined underlying issues that contributed to the city’s water crisis, including the history of segregated housing and education, environmental justice and the emergency manager law and the role of implicit bias.
Commissioners said the city’s history along with “structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias led to decisions, actions, and consequences in Flint would not have allowed to happen in primarily white communities such as Birmingham, Ann Arbor, or East Grand Rapids,” said a Feb. 17 press release from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.
The investigation included three public hearings and testimony from more than 150 residents, experts and government officials.
“We strongly believe that the actions that led to the poisoning of Flint’s water and the slow response resulted in the abridgement of civil rights for the people of Flint,” said Arthur Horwitz, co-chair of the Commission during the time of the investigation. “We are not suggesting that those making decisions related to this crisis were racists, or meant to treat Flint any differently because it is a community of color. Rather, the response is the result of implicit bias and the history of systemic racism that was built into the foundation of Flint.”
The Commission outlined a number of recommendations including replacing or restricting Michigan’s emergency manager law.
“The lessons of Flint are profound,” said Horwitz. “While the exact situation and response that happened in Flint may never happen anywhere else, the factors that led to this crisis remain in place and will most certainly lead to other tragedies if we don’t take steps to remedy them. We hope this report is a step in that direction.”
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission released a more than 100 page report after their year-long investigation of the Flint water crisis. Here are key issues and recommendations from their report.
- The structures, institutions and systems that created Flint, including the history of segregated housing and education,
- Environmental justice and the emergency manager law,
- The role of implicit bias.
Recommendations for action
- Replacing or restructuring Michigan’s emergency manager law.
- Developing a plan of action to provide environmental justice to all Michigan residents.
- Developing a deeper understanding of the roles of structural racialization and implicit bias, and how they affect decision-making throughout all branches of state government, and provide training on implicit bias to the Governor’s Cabinet, Mission Flint, and the staff of all state departments including DHHS and DEQ.