Remember that a discussion board post should make connections between the case(s) and key course
concepts. You should also provide your own reflection/opinion on the material. See the Discussion Board
Assignment Guidelines for more details.
You are also encouraged to pose a question for your peers either asking about something youre unclear
about, or seeking their opinion/thoughts on an issue as a way of getting discussion going. Feel free to
bring in insights from outside materials, your own life experiences, or current events!
OPTION 1: How does racism get perpetuated through water service provision and management? You
might also consider: How might we understand the week 5-6 cases and readings in light of this years
protests against anti-Black racism and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples (e.g. the Wetsuweten
pipeline protests)? How do you think we might work to advance racial justice through water
governance? Answer with reference to the Detroit case (guest lecture, readings) AND/OR the case of First
Nations water in Canada. In your response, draw on at least two course readings from weeks 1-6.
o One strategy might be to link to a key course theme(s):
Access & control
Infrastructure, knowledge, & power
o When thinking of how we might advance racial justice, you can select an actor(s) of your
choice: policymakers/planners, activists, etc.
Here is a sample:
Racism gets perpetuated through water service provision and management because of systemic racism that has been entrenched into a society where lawmakers and regulators create a system that is based on white supremacy which disproportionately exploits people of colour (POC) (W5 module 1B). The failure of states and governance is what creates an urban water crisis (Bakker). This is done based on social reproduction, which are essential things we need to live, thrive, and be productive like water (W5 Module 2). Systemic racism deprives people of colour from these necessities which prevent social reproduction in those communities which advance white supremacy because they continue to grow while the POC diminishes.
We can see this in the Detroit case, where statistically Detroit has an 85% black population and the suburbs have a 90% white population (W5 notes). Back in the 1900s when black people started migrating to Detroit to escape racial persecution from the south and in search of employment, the white residents started leaving for the suburbs with the federal government offering subsidies and low-income mortgages as incentives (W5 notes). The black people could not afford these incentives because they had no money. Also, the federal government started investing more in water/sewer infrastructure in the suburbs rather than Detroit (W5 notes). Banks also created something called redlining which highlighted high/low-risk neighbourhoods for investment/lending, and unsurprisingly the black neighbourhoods were labeled as high risk (W5 notes). It was outlawed in the 1960s but still left the city with poor investment and infrastructure.
The State of Michigan had ordered Detroit to extend its water to the suburbs, and they did so based on projections that their population would exponentially grow (W5 notes). This raised water prices and the suburbs eventually filed a lawsuit against Detroit because they believed they were being unfairly charged. This occurred during the time Detroit elected their first black mayor, Coleman Young, in 1973. Suburbanites attacked his administration and city saying they were incompetent, corrupt, and dangerous (Kornberg). Since then, it has been decades-long conflicts trying to take away control of the water management from Detroit and into the hands of the suburban municipalities. In 2013, Detroit was bankrupt because its residents could not afford to pay their water bills and an emergency manager took undemocratic control over the city (Cramer). In 2014, the official started to shut off water to those who had unpaid bills, and this received backlash from the residents and the United Nations (Cramer). This relates to social reproduction because these dominantly black residents cannot maintain good hygiene due to lack of water which makes them susceptible to diseases. This paused during the coronavirus pandemic (Germanos), but it should not take a pandemic for this happen.
Considering the Black Lives Matters (BLM) protests, the black people in Detroit are experiencing the same racism as black victims of police brutality. I think they should continue to protest and exercise their right to vote to let the politicians know there needs to be change because it is the institutionalized racism that has led to the water crisis in Detroit. The solution is not turning off the water but investing in Detroit and reversing the damage done over the decades. Investing can only be possible if people view black people as victims of injustice and not as criminals that exploit the system as the suburban communities thought.
A question for my peers is, why do you think it has been so difficult to remove systemic racism in essential resources like water that has been condemned by organizations like the UN?