poisoned water is an attack on the black community

September 6, 2018
  1. By Kwame Shakir, AFROPUNK contributor


Even though news about the poisoned water in Flint made national and international headlines, these stories never talked about the systemic, racial undertones of the lead-in-the-water incidents in that city, and in other parts of the country.

The poisoning of our water by the colonial social system is nothing new, and reflective of the long list of atrocities committed against Black people for over 600 years since Europe’s vicious attack on Africa.

Black communities in this country have been under attack throughout its history—and they remain under attack. Our kids are being viciously assaulted by white nationalist administrators/teachers and police officers in the colonial education system. Young Black men are being killed by systematically inflicted violence, and forced into the illegal drug economy imposed upon our community by vicious and oppressive economic quarantines. All the while, we’re pushed out of our communities by parasitic, predatory gentrifying forces, by real-estate developers and land speculators who only view our impoverished neighborhoods as dollar signs.

The poisoning of the Black community in Flint—and of other predominantly Black areas throughout the country—is part of the same gentrification process. Corrupt city government officials are the willing puppets of these same predatory forces, basically pushing us out of our homes or using more police containment.

Flint is not the only city with toxic water. High levels of lead have also been detected in the drinking water of Baltimore and Philadelphia. Our children are currently experiencing all sorts of psychological issues and brain damage by being exposed to extremely high levels of lead that come from the poisoned water in our communities.

I know some people who read this article are scratching their heads wondering, “How does gentrification play a role in the water poisoning of our community?” Well, the answer is, “If they can’t get us out through pricing us out of our homes, or with the police, then the next step is to poison our water supply so that it makes it easier for them to push us out of our own community.”

Here in “The Black Belt” of Alabama, predominantly Black counties like Selma and my hometown of Montgomery have been dealing with sewage problems for decades. I myself experience these problems whenever I go to the backyard to run the water pipe. I have to wait a few minutes for the tinted brown color (poisoned water) to disappear to a clear color (clean water). These are among the colonial conditions imposed on our community on a daily basis. Many poor and working class Black people in Lowndes County have been exposed to raw sewage after heavy rains in the area. If anything, this clearly shows that this system cares very little for the Black community.

The predominantly white communities across the country don’t have these types of issues too much because they benefit off the oppression and exploitation of the Black community—both historically and today. Go to a predominantly white school, and you don’t see the militarization and aggressive police containment you see so often at predominantly Black schools; or check the toxicity levels of water in the white communities.

We must come to an understanding: everything that the colonial social system has done to us is always systemic oppression, including poisoning our water supply.