As Michigan’s neglect and indifference toward the Flint water crisis continues to make headlines, activists and social justice groups are throwing their support behind the residents still suffering from lead-contaminated water supply. The most recent of these advocates is Black Lives Matter: On Friday, the group released a solidarity statement linking the Flint water crisis to other instances of environmental racism and called the human-made disaster an example of state violence.
The statement reads:
The right to clean drinking water is a matter of health and dignity, and for many Black residents in Flint, it is also a matter of life and death. Residents living with autoimmune disorders like lupus and HIV are at especially high risk. Additionally, pregnant people, elders, and children are all exceptionally susceptible to lead poisoning – the most critical concern for Flint residents who rely on tap water for drinking.
For what it is worth, of Resolution 64/292 of the United Nations General Assembly recognizes the human right to water and sanitation. However, like other fundamental human rights, Black people in America – especially those living in rural and poor areas – have long been denied the same access to clean drinking and water for bathing and sanitation as everyone else. The crisis in Flint is not an isolated incident. State violence in the form of contaminated water or no access to water at all is pervasive in Black communities.
Black Lives Matter has previously focused on police brutality and criminal justice reform. This time, they’re making the connections to other issues affecting predominately black and working-class populations, and broadening the definition of state violence.
The statement highlighted lack of water access in other areas such as Mississippi and Detroit, whose residents faced tens of thousands of water shut offs in 2015. The group ended with a list of demands that included naming Flint a federal disaster zone, refunding all water bills since the switch of water supply in April 2014, and the immediate resignation of Governor Rick Snyder.