In July and August, torrential rains in central Mississippi unleashed an ongoing catastrophe in Jackson, the state’s capital. It’s the kind produced by deliberate, decades-long neglect of Black communities by white power structures. We’ve seen it before in Flint, Michigan, and New Orleans and Cancer Alley in Louisiana.
The summer downpour overwhelmed Jackson’s dilapidated water treatment system just as it had last winter. At that time, the mayor requested $47 million for repairs and staff training. He got $3 million and a condescending lecture from the governor. Now Jackson’s 150,000 residents, 82% of whom are Black, can’t bathe or drink tap water without boiling it; they can, however, finally flush their toilets.
Overhauling Jackson’s water system will cost $1 billion, but the entire state only got $75 million to upgrade water systems from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
Brooke Floyd, coordinator of the Jackson People’s Assembly, calls the situation “racism to the umpteenth degree.” Added on top of the pandemic, miserable wages and a failing healthcare system, Jackson and other central Mississippi communities are barely making it.
It’s enough to bring Nina Simone to tears.