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Flint Water Crisis: Environmental Racism and Racial Capitalism Essay

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Updated: Aug 5th, 2022

The Flint municipal fiscal solvency’s goals subordinated the people of Flint, Michigan, and devalued their lives, illustrating a perfect example of racial capitalism and environmental racism resulting from ill-intentioned austerity measures.

Laura Pulido’s article is centered on the themes of racial capitalism and environmental racism. The Flint crisis is a result of the neoliberal approach of the local state as opposed to the typical factors of environmental injustice; a polluter or a reckless emitter cutting costs. This story attracted widespread attention because of the more prominent political, historical, and economic factors behind it (Pulido 1). The municipal Emergency Fiscal Manager (EFM) was pin-pointed as the key player in the ordeal with his austerity measures. This controversy is one of the rare occasions when the public acknowledges that environmental racism is structural, as has been the case in the neoliberal and liberal eras.

The people of Flint have been devalued, and the basis of this treatment is on their surplus status and blackness, two mutually constituted constructs. For many centuries, black and other non-white races have been subject to global capitalism (Pulido 2). The capital and local governments abandoned Flint decades ago, and it became increasingly for the poor, mostly Blacks. The evidence underscoring this neglect of this place includes the shrinking democratic practices, infrastructure, and services. For instance, the officials were well aware of the impact of their actions on the people of Flint, but they proceeded to poison their water. The city’s EFM sought an alternative water source instead of accepting the renegotiating terms with Detroit to continue using its river (Pulido 4). Therefore, this article argues that the easiest way to understand the Flint disaster is to use the apparent connection between capitalism and racism in that crisis.

The author’s consistent use of ‘poisoning’ instead of ‘contamination’ is justified because the former is deliberate and evil while the latter could not have revealed the author’s stance regarding this ordeal. The two main factors leading to the poisoning of the city of Flint are capitalism and racism. People of color have always been viewed as a “surplus” population, and this example illustrates how they are devalued based on their race and social class (Pulido 1). The city was slowly decapitated through the promotion of white flight, which neoliberalism policies facilitated. As a result, there were massive cuts to social services because of the shrinking tax base. Amid this challenging economic state, the local state, through its tyrannical Emergency Fiscal Manager, Darnell Earley, used austerity measures even when it was evident that it was difficult to make up the tax base difference (Pulido 4). This decision is a clear illustration of the intertwinement between environmental racism and racial capitalism.

Laura Pulido’s argument is intriguing and convincing based on the many facts she reveals concerning Flint’s water poisoning. Indeed, the neoliberal policies neglect people of color and strip them of their capability to add capital to the economy, which is the basis of their evaluation. Moreover, the devaluation of blackness is a historical aspect since Michigan state authorities allowed white flight leaving behind the surplus people, primarily blacks. For example, General Motors (GM), an automobile manufacturing company, was established in this state in the early 20th century, and it immensely contributed to the thriving of the local economies (Pulido 6). However, its deindustrialization hit African Americans harder than their white counterparts because the former have been historically relegated as a sub-ordinate people due to racial capitalism. The powers of the EFM should be eliminated because they have, on several occasions, been used in despotic and racialized ways. Additionally, stringent measures must be enforced to eliminate redlining. Lastly, the government needs to consider promoting economic equality in Flint, Michigan, through such approaches as universal healthcare, free public college, and fiscal stimulation during times of economic hardship coupled with non-discriminatory housing policies.

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IvyPanda. "Flint Water Crisis: Environmental Racism and Racial Capitalism." August 5, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/flint-water-crisis-environmental-racism-and-racial-capitalism/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Flint Water Crisis: Environmental Racism and Racial Capitalism." August 5, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/flint-water-crisis-environmental-racism-and-racial-capitalism/.

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