#WakeUpWednesday: The Jackson, Mississippi water crisis is rooted in racism

ICYMI the residents of Mississippi's capital city are currently without safe drinking water or the water pressure to take a shower or flush a toilet or fight a fire. Can we just take a minute to reflect on the severity of this situation? When is the last time you were somewhere without water for plumbing? Without access to water, aka the most basic human need? 

Jackson's schools have had to shut down and returned to virtual (reminder: this course of action is modern day school segregation and excludes poor students), restaurants and workplaces have had to shut down (loss of hourly wages = devastating impact on hourly workers who are disproportionately Black and Brown), only people who have resources to find and travel are able to obtain bottled water (poor people are less likely to have internet to search for locations, less likely to have access to reliable transportation, and due to hourly wages or health issues less likely to be able to wait in long lines to obtain water). 

There are a lot of important factors at play here that are important to understand. First, some details about Jackson, MS:
  • Population: 150,000
  • Black population: 83% of Jackson's residents are Black, making it the Blackest state in America only behind Washington, D.C. who can't get statehood because America loves to disenfranchise Black folks

The Timeline

This covers topics we have discussed in the past: school integration, state elections, and the dirty word "defunding" that we all like to lose our sh*t about when people associate with the police.

1969: We all know about Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, but lesser known is the 1969 decision Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education in which the Supreme Court told Mississippi their timeline for integrating schools was unconstitutional and they needed to integrate yesterday. This decision kicked off a decades long white flight from Jackson to whiter towns/suburbs. 

1969 - 2000: Jackson's overall population continued to decline, experiencing its sharpest drops from 1990 - on. The city was 56% Black in 1990, but by 2020, more than 80% of the city's residents were Black. I will let you draw your own conclusion about how the 70% white Republican controlled state congress thinks about resourcing their capital city when it is to their advantage to claim Black and Democratic mismanagement.  If the last few years have illuminated anything for us, it's to follow the money (aka political donations), so as wealthy white constituents left Jackson, politicians diverted funding from its own capital city to whiter, wealthier locations and causes.

The population drop also led to this equation for Jackson:
Population loss = tax revenue decrease = continued infrastructure decline = people who can afford to leave move out for places with better infrastructure = low income residents are the only ones left = the cost falls mostly on low income residents 

2020: Jackson's water infrastructure failed EPA inspections, and state legislature granted only a small fraction (6%) of the funding requested by Jackson's mayor to fix the problem. Please note, while infrastructure was being defunded, the state found plenty of funding to dedicate to abortion bans and critical race theory (🥴).

2022 (30 days ago): Jackson issues a boil advisory due to concerns about parasites, viruses, and bacteria in the drinking water. State legislators do...nothing.

Monday: A flood takes out Jackson's water infrastructure, leaving schools and businesses closed and residents without drinking water or running water. 

Common Themes

There are a lot of themes we have learned about that we see in racist situations.

  1. Importance of local elections: We need to pay attention to both our city and state wide elections. People voted in these state legislators who diverted funding for their own water infrastructure. 
  2. Systematic Disenfranchisement: As we see from the timeline, the state government has put in place systems to withhold funding from communities of color to keep them down. Also let's look at how the government has systematically kept education from Jackson students for years at this point.
  3. It's not just the south: Before you get too comfortable because Mississippi is like THE Deep South, please note that things like this are happening in every state, your city could be next.
  4. Environmental racism: City planning and infrastructure like this is a key example/

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