In April 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, began using water from the Flint River. The official reason to break Flint's long time contract with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department was financial efficiency; it was presented as a cost-cutting measure. Flint residents began immediately complaining about their water, complaints that were ignored. Thanks to the local activists, it was eventually discovered that the water was indeed corrosive, the city failed to treat it, and lead leached from the pipes into the water drunk by the city's children and families. By September 2015, the city was acknowledging the size of the health crisis this entailed, and in October 2015, Flint switched back to Detroit water. It was too late: the damage was done, and Flint's children have shown persistently high levels of lead—poisoned by a series of decisions that would never have been made in a majority white city. It is also now clear that relevant officials knew that the switch to the Flint River was in fact more expensive, both in the short term and the long term, than remaining with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. Using Vesla Weaver's concept of frontlash, I argue that a technocratic ideology combined with a certain version of racism, resembling settler colonialism, is the cause of the tragedy.


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