Four weeks after a historic winter storm, residents of Jackson, Mississippi, are still having to boil their water. Burst pipes and power failures were a familiar story across the American South after the storm. Some Texans went without power for days. But Texas applied for federal aid almost immediately, and recovery is underway. So did Louisiana. Mississippi still has not, according to the Clarion Ledger.
The Jackson water crisis fits a pattern. It took 11 months before power was completely restored in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Repeated concerns about lead in the water of Flint, Michigan, were ignored. When infrastructure fails in communities with little financial might or political power, the wait for the most basic services can make parts of the United States appear like a developing nation.
As in Jackson, these issues are often intertwined with race. Jackson’s water system is in a deplorable state because much of the city’s wealth disappeared with white families who left as segregation-era laws were overturned. The city is now 80% Black. “White flight has led to divestment,” Mayor Chokwe Lumumba told The New York Times.
The crisis, he added, “hopefully ... allows us to build the resolve to address it.” Honest resolve to help is in many ways as important a building project as any pipes or plumbing.