“Here’s to Flint.”
With that line, the city of Flint officially shut off the water flowing from Detroit and shifted to pulling its drinking water from the Flint River. The date was April 25, 2014.
Five years later, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights has released a new study guide designed to help educators teach the lessons of the Flint water crisis. The study guide is free and available online at www.michigan.gov/mdcr.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission report on the crisis, released in February 2017, found that systemic racism lay below the surface of that decision, influencing and informing the actions, the responses and ultimately the crisis itself. “The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint,” details the legacy and impact of a century of racial animus and segregation in Flint that led to the crisis.
“As the adage goes, those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it,” said MDCR Director Agustin V. Arbulu. “Flint is an example of history’s repetition and provides us with a powerful opportunity to examine how the legacy of racial discrimination continues to unconsciously undermine decisions and produce and reproduce unintended consequences. This study guide serves as a tool to facilitate the important conversations that will help us understand the past and move us to designing and implementing policies that deliberately disrupt disparate and discriminatory outcomes.”
The study guide provides a glossary of terms as well as questions to assist citizens – young and old – in creating dialogs connecting the past and the present.
“Our hope is that this study guide, used in conjunction with the Commission’s Flint water crisis report, will help to promote reflection and introspection on the ways history and culture shape policies, practices and procedures,” said MDCR Equity Officer Alfredo Hernandez. “This study guide is part history lesson, part civic lesson, but primarily a critical thinking tool designed to guide deeper exploration on how the past continues to impact the present and the future.”
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to safeguard constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights serves as the operational arm of the Commission.