Sunday, February 19, 2017

Michigan civil rights panel: Flint water crisis rooted in 'systemic racism'

A storm drain on the west side of Flint, Mich. The oil crisis of the 1970s and corporate cost-cutting in the 1980s and beyond led to the decimation of manufacturing jobs in the city. Its population plummeted and crime soared along with unemployment. (Carlos Osorio / AP)

By Paul Eagan, Detroit Free Press
Chicago Tribune

February 18, 2017

The Flint drinking water crisis has its root causes in historical and systemic racism, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission said Friday in a hard-hitting report that calls the public health catastrophe " a complete failure of government" and recommends a rewrite of the state's emergency manager law and bias training for state officials.

The report, unanimously adopted at a meeting of the commission in downtown Flint, also calls for the creation of a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" a model that was used in South Africa after apartheid as a way of rebuilding government trust and credibility by listening to and addressing specific concerns raised by Flint residents.

It calls on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to invite experts to provide training on "implicit bias" to his cabinet, his team responding to Flint, and to require all state departments, including the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services, to do the same for their staff. Implicit bias is unconscious bias that can be directed toward historically disadvantaged groups, influencing decision-making.

And it includes the news media among the many institutions that could have served the residents of Flint better.


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