National and state mainstream media recently identified the “problem now” in Flint. The “problem now” is supposedly that people in Flint no longer trust the government. And this distrust, the story goes, will supposedly make it difficult to implement any solution.
First, let’s pause a moment to ask: why would community distrust make it so problematic for the government to implement a solution? After all, the government was more than willing and able to override any and all objections from the community when it implemented the switch to the Flint River in the first place. Why, then, would we need to anticipate that “problem” before any lasting and comprehensive solution has even been proposed by the government? It was the community that demanded that all lead feeder pipes be replaced. Only then did government take serious action to do so. There should be no “problem” implementing the solutions identified by the community itself. What “solutions” from the government does the media anticipate that the community will resist, due to their “problematic” distrust? Any chance these could be “solutions” that shouldn’t be trusted? “Solutions” that don’t adequately, fully address the needs to make the community whole—in finances, in infrastructure, and in physical, mental, and community health?
Second, for whom does it become a problem when a community distrusts a government that has proven itself—again and again—untrustworthy? This is only a problem for said government. When a government proves itself untrustworthy, again and again, the community in question should not trust that government. When the devastation is as severe as in Flint, (perhaps) all of us should not trust that government.
According to this narrative, the “problem now” is not that many people in Flint still do not have complete and accurate information about the toxicity of their water, risks to their health, damage to the plumbing and appliances in their home, or services available to them. The “problem now” is not that the government has still failed to ensure that all residents, including those most vulnerable and marginalized, have ongoing access to the bottled water, filters, and services they need. The “problem now” is not that Snyder’s administration continues to evade responsibility and expend more energy on public relations than on putting solutions immediately into place. The “problem now” is not that communities from east coast to west—including the Navajo Nation and numerous other Indian reservations, many predominantly Black communities in Louisiana and Mississippi, and many jails, prisons, and detention centers—do not have safe drinking water. The “problem now” is not that cities in Michigan with majority Black populations, from Benton Harbor to Flint to Detroit, have been denied their right to self-determination, dignity, and life.
This shallow narrative from mainstream media belies their heavy identification with their corporate and government masters. Question these insidious media narratives.
Power to the people of Flint. All power to the people!