Most people know that there are places in the world where water access and quality are bad. And I’m sure if you have been watching the news, you have also been reading about the quality of water in places like Flint, Michigan. While I knew issues with water quality existed, I was astonished to learn that these problems affect the United States in enormous ways. I also didn’t see the connections between race and water access. I thought issues of race didn’t run so deeply, but I was wrong.
According to The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, “Over one billion people do not have access to improved water supply sources and more than two billion people do not have access to any type of improved sanitation facility.” This lack of water and sanitation contain a lot of repercussions for women and men, but as with other things in our patriarchal society, women bear the brunt of these issues. Bearing children becomes much more dangerous without sanitation. Girls and women are less likely to participate in school once they reach ages of menstruation, due to the cultural unacceptance and lack of sanitation. Women and girls are also the “collectors” of water in many countries, and on average a woman walks six kilometers a day in order to get water for their family (Link). Most of the people that live in these conditions are people of color. Norleen Heyzer, the director of UNIFEM stated, “Women constitute 70% of the world’s…absolute poor.” This fact means that not only are the people living in these conditions people of color, they are women of color!
Enter Flint, Michigan. This predominately African-American city is located northwest of Detroit, and most of the residents in this city live below lines of poverty. In 2014, the city changed its water system in order to get water from the nearby Flint River, because it saved money. Since 2014 there have been warnings sent to public officials, who haven’t taken any of the warnings seriously (Link). I certainly can’t give reasons why someone in public office would ignore EPA warnings, but it seems as though Governor Rick Snyder didn’t care about the lives of people that wouldn’t be backing him in upcoming elections, as he gave tax cuts to big businesses by about 1.7 billion dollars, while raising individual taxes, and cutting programs in education! (Link). And this is the same man that “respectfully declined” to testify at the hearings for the crisis last spring (Link).
Celebrities have been helping provide water and housing to the thousands of residents that can’t afford to leave the city. Aretha Franklin, resident of Detroit, donated money to pay for hotel rooms; Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and Mark Wahlberg have donated a million bottles of water (Link); and filmmaker Michael Moore created “10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy” (Link).
It seems that even in the U.S., water security is something that we afford to those people who have money, instead of providing safe and clean water to all of our citizens, even when we can afford it! Surely something can be done to shine a spotlight on the corruption that is obviously happening within the political climate of Michigan. Corruption that is still happening, because Flint STILL doesn’t have clean water.
I’m sure the residents of Flint would agree!
Melissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University. She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate. Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center. Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy!