Flint Water Crisis: A Violation of Civil Rights

Let’s get something straight. Pollution and Black neighborhoods aren’t mutually exclusive. The slashing of public school funding, the rampant food deserts, the garbage not being picked up on time, or pretty much anything residents in predominantly white neighborhoods don’t deal with are all examples of polluting a neighborhood. The Flint water crisis, or lack there of, is simply the latest in a historical trend of officials ignoring poor Black neighborhoods.

In 2011, Michigan Gov. Rick Synder appointed an emergency financial manager to spearhead Flint’s water supply budget. He had one job—to cut the budget. And cut the budget he did, along with poisoning the residents by switching the water supply to Flint’s river instead of paying Detroit for Lake Huron’s fresh water.

In order for Flint’s river water to be drinkable, it had to be treated with an anti-corrosion agent, which would cost the state about $100 a day. To save money, the water was left untreated and supplied to Flint’s residents, and now he done lead poisoned damn near all of Flint. Keep in mind, lead poisoning is irreversible and will cause lifelong consequences.

Some things you just shouldn’t go cheap on, like toilet paper, detergent and I don’t know DRINKING WATER. You simply cannot roll the dice on an entire city’s water supply just to save some coins. But that’s what those tasked with governing the city of Flint did.

I’m honestly just baffled. How did water supply make it to the top of Gov. Synder’s list of things to cut? What the hell else was on the list that was so damn important?! Was Gov. Snyder simply like, “OK team, we got parks and recreation, transportation, and water pollution control. Ya know, I think I’mma get at water pollution control. Dey be a’ight.”

An auntie’s side-eye and a baby-powdered smack was due in full. I don’t know the in’s and out’s of Flint’s budget, but I’m pretty sure the health and wellbeing of Flint’s residents is worth a lot more than $36,500 a year, an estimate of what it would’ve cost to properly treat the river water. Clean water is a right, not a privilege. But that’s assuming Flint’s residents were viewed as human beings in the first place.

About 40% of Flint’s residents live below the poverty line. According to the 2010 census, the racial make-up is as follows: 56.6% African American, 37.4% White, 3.9% Hispanic/Latino, 0.5% Native American, and 0.5% Asian. I don’t think a bunch of rich, old white men got in a room and devised a plan of how to exploit and f*** over Flint. But I do think that because Flint is a mostly poor and Black, they felt a lot more comfortable cutting corners.

You don’t ever hear cases like this coming out of rich, white neighborhoods. And that’s where you find the racism in this scandal. There’s comfort and arrogance in knowing and/or thinking you can get away with ignoring the health of an entire city because they’re poor and Black.

As for all of that money Snyder saved from cutting the city’s water supply? It can be used for future settlements. Ahhhhhhhhh, wake up and smell the depositions.


Terrence Chappell surfaced on Chicago’s media scene as UR Chicago Magazine Online’s fashion editor. Since then, he has worked and contributed to various media outlets such as Michigan Ave. Magazine, CS Magazine, and The Men’s Book. Currently, Terrence serves as the editor-at-large for, the city’s largest LGBT entertainment and news website where he writes “Chappell Confidential,” a nightlife and society column. Terrence also heads “Chappell on Community,” the site’s newest editorial monthly series that profiles the LGBT community’s most innovative leaders.