Economist and Wayne State University Law School professor Peter J. Hammer recently submitted written testimony to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission as part of their hearings on the Flint Water Crisis titled, “The Flint Water Crisis, KWA and Strategic-Structural Racism”. Click here to download the report, or read coverage by Curt Guyette and the ACLU of Michigan: Democracy Watch: Law Professor Peter J. Hammer Likens Flint Water Crisis to ‘Tuskegee Experiment’.
Please find an introduction and summary to the document below by people’s lawyer, D-REM and PWB member Thomas Stephens:
This testimony provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of 1) the decision to approve Flint’s participation in the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) pipeline and 2) the financially driven decision to use the Flint River as an interim source of drinking water.
Racialized austerity so extreme it can kill, exposed:
“… Flint found itself in a position where it could not legally stop using the Flint River, or return to the safe water of DWSD, or decrease its water rates, or terminate its involvement in KWA, all because the City was bound to finance its participation in a pipeline that better served the interests of others. …
Nothing about what happened in Flint was accidental. Flint needs to be understood as a morality play illustrating the dangers of Emergency Management and fiscal austerity. Flint needs to stand as a profound multi-generational testimony to the dangers of strategic-structural racism in the same manner as the Tuskegee tragedy forever shames medical science. …
The problem is not a lack of knowledge. The people of the State of Michigan viscerally understood the dangers of Emergency Management and collectively opposed it. The people in Flint understood the insanity of using the Flint River as a source of drinking water and had immediate, firsthand knowledge of how dangerous and inappropriate the water was for human consumption when it began flowing in April 2014. Engineers understand the basic chemistry of corrosion control and the relatively simple measures that can be taken to mitigate its ruinous effects. Physicians understand the permanent debilitating effects of lead on the human brain, especially for children. The problem is not a lack of knowledge.
The problem is the often willful blindness of people in positions of privilege and authority (Knowledge-&-Power) to the needs, perspectives and interests of others, particularly when the “other” is from a community that differs from their own in terms of race or class or ethnicity. The problem is that the information and beliefs held by people in authority often reinforce that blindness and permit the unquestioned projection of policies and programs on others, even when it is clear that those policies are inappropriate or have harmful consequences. The problem is that vulnerable populations are often subject to exploitation that strategically manipulates the very vulnerability created by express racism, structural racism and unconscious bias, and yet this exploitation finds ready shelter in the very forces it exploits.” Continue reading Read: Peter Hammer’s testimony, “The Flint Water Crisis, KWA and Strategic-Structural Racism”