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Opinion: Jackson water crisis shows Nina Simone is still right about Mississippi

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After repeated attempts to confront a seemingly non-verbal young African American with a stomach swollen by malnutrition, picking up dry rice and beans on the ground floor of a shack, Bobby Kennedy, the father of eleven children, quickly turned around and went outside. He didn’t want the photographers accompanying him to catch the tears that welled up in his eyes.
The depth of Mississippi poverty was almost excessive for Kennedy. Talking sadly about “kids with relaxed stomachs” Kennedy urged the federal government must do something to alleviate the widespread “suffering” of the state. Considering that “housing was inadequate” and commented on the “insufficient clothing” of impoverished children in the state, he rightly concluded that Mississippi was a “terrible reflection on our society.”
Now, 54 years later, the federal government must be asked to intervene in the state again. Many of the residents are mostly black of the Mississippi Capital, Jackson, I spent weeks without running water after a period of cold a large number of pipes in the city exploded. According to Mississippi Today, osee 40,000 people, the equivalent of an exhausted game at Wrigley Field, were unable to drink, bathe or wash clothes, dishes, hands or even wash toilets, all during a pandemic.
Over the past few days, the city has made significant progress in repairs, restoring water to most of its residents. Despite this, two major life-threatening problems remain. First, water pressure is extremely low and unreliable in certain neighborhoods, particularly in the poorer parts of South Jackson. More importantly, city tests have revealed that Jackson’s water is not yet safe to drink USA Today has reported, “because of the high turbidity: a cloudiness that increases the possibility that the water may contain disease-causing organisms.”
The capital of an American state is still subject to advice on boiling water, a notice originally published almost a month ago, on February 16th. Jackson’s problems, like those of so many other U.S. cities, are a wear and tear to the political ideals traditionally asserted by white Americans.
Jackson, Mississippi, it is a microcosm of the massive failures of our nation to mend centuries of colonialism, slavery, and racism. Jackson’s story is like that of Flint, Michigan; Centerville, Illinois; and Shreveport, Louisiana. While the details of each city may vary, the fundamental problem that unites these places in distress is painfully obvious.
Our problem, our shame, is that American poverty does not come from lack of funds, but from white supremacy. Due to the ravages of history, from slavery and the failures of reconstruction to more modern redlining tactics, White flight and the crisis of mass imprisonment – Poverty in the United States almost always depends on racism, even when the poor are white. From facing workers of different races to provoke racist and xenophobic fears through a sensationalist, profit-based media, the white American elite has always used the specter of racism to prevent the formation of a broad coalition of people with vested interests. similar class, regardless of race.
And the poor and working-class whites have historically been too willing to participate this Faustian bargain.
We are one of the richest nations in the world, but among those nations, yes one of the most unequal. Almost all other developed nations offer a better standard of living to its citizens, regardless of income or wealth.
Currently, white Republicans control the Mississippi state legislature. Governor Tate Reeves and other white legislators they hold hostage essentially the black-led city, refusing to fund repairs. Although the citizens of his state spend literally a month without the basics of survival, Reeves focused his attention on passing the first anti-transgender law of 2021.
The few repairs that have been made have been mostly done rich, largely white north of Jackson, clearly delimiting not only the privileges, but the power of Whiteness. As State Representative Christopher M. Bell rightly said, “My colleagues at the Mississippi Capitol have a history of accusing the Jackson City Legislative Delegation of asking for pamphlets versus aid. However, they have a different view. of the predominantly white communities surrounding Jackson when they ask for support. ”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba echoed Representative Bell’s sentiments, knowing all too well how long and sordid history of the state has kept black and brown citizens trapped in cyclical poverty, often without access to services that most Americans believe are basic human rights – from running water and electricity to housing, health care and food.
The blood-stained flag of Mississippi is the crisis of America

“Infrastructure challenges in Jackson and similar black communities across the country are inextricably linked to a legacy of racism, redlinism, imposition and systematic disinvestment in our communities for decades,” Mayor Lumumba wrote in a statement Saturday. “It has gotten worse over time and now we have to reconcile with how to solve it and find solutions ahead. We have to move away from a system of exclusion and exploitation and towards a city model. just “.

The mayor’s words are true: According to Talk Poverty, as of 2020, nearly one-fifth of Mississippi’s total population has an income below the poverty line. The burden is even worse for children in the state, of whom a staggering 28% live in daily poverty. Among the U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Mississippi ranks last (51st) for global poverty.
Other Talk Poverty Statistics they reveal the striking correlation between race and poverty. While 12% of Mississippi’s white population lives in poverty, the figures are approaching 30.5%, 31% of African Americans and 32% of Native Americans.
As if the misery of a state flooded with destitution, pain, and suffering were not enough, Mississippi also has odious distinction 49th in unemployment, 44th in higher education, 50th in the birth rate of adolescents, 49th in assets and savings and 51st in death, due to hunger and food insecurity.
To make matters worse, almost a quarter of the state’s population had them without medical insurance at any time during the 2020 pandemic. Simply put, Mississippi is one of the poorer, sicker states in the US.

While repair is no longer a common word, it is the key to successfully tackling repairs. To repair means to restore something in good condition; it means to make something work again. Restorative justice means correcting the mistakes of the past, not only recognizing the harms of certain groups of people, both past and present, but also addressing those harms and working to improve them.

With Nina Simone he wrote so brilliantly on restorative justice in his iconic song “Mississippi Goddam,” time is always essential:

But that’s just the problem
“slow down”
Desegregation
“slow down”
Mass participation
“slow down”
Reunification
“slow down”
Do things gradually
“slow down”
But bring more tragedy.

While many white Mississippi in power, such as Tate Reeves and other Republican Party leaders, consciously or not, expand the legacy of racism and the confederation of slaveholders and do not act as white supremacy keeps state people trapped in a extreme poverty, the time for federal intervention is now. If state leaders do not repair and restore Jackson’s water system, the country’s leaders will have to step in to help correct past mistakes.

From immediately sending FEMA to address Jackson’s short-term problems to approving a Federal Employment Guarantee that focuses, first and foremost, on restorative justice, the Biden administration, and the Democratic Congress, if really they defend the values ​​with which they campaigned. he must act quickly and thoroughly.

In 1968, less than a year after Senator Kennedy’s trip to Mississippi, Martin Luther King, Jr. he wrote this “Poverty is nothing new. What is new is that we now have techniques and resources to eradicate poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”

It is nothing less than a moral and ethical tragedy — a nationwide accusation — that our citizens are deprived of clean running water in one of the richest nations on earth. The time has passed for immediate federal action. We must have the will.

Mississippi Goddam.

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