Why Flint Will Never Be Standing Rock

December 6, 2016  |  

It appears the fight to save our water is not quite over yet.

According to published reports, some of the Standing Rock protestors who are fresh off of their win against the Dakota pipeline have now set their sights on Flint, Michigan, where thousands of residents are still without drinkable water.

flint water crisis

It’s not certain how many of the thousands of Standing Rock protestors plan on going to Flint. But as one protester tells Michigan Live.com:

“We don’t know when we are going to be there but we will be heading to Flint,” said US Army veteran Wes Clark Jr. who helped organize veterans who joined the fight. “This problem is all over the county. It’s got to be more than veterans. People have been treated wrong in this county for a long time.”

A “water is life” tour. I can certainly dig it.

This is likely good news for residents of Flint who have been suffering from lead-tainted drinking water for over 400 days. And as community activist and another Standing Rock protestor told ML.com:

“The flow of information is very low because the media has been concerned with covering…the presidential election,” said Ponti, a community activist and founder of the web site Revhub.org. It’s a great disservice. You cannot have a healthy democracy if the citizens are not informed. When there is no information…the citizens cannot make decisions…Our people are suffering. They are suffering in Standing Rock. They are suffering in Flint. They are suffering in Louisiana.”

Let’s hope organizing efforts are as fruitful for Flint as it had been for the Sioux and their tribal land.

But of course, I’m cynical.

And it is not just because Flint’s water crisis is entangled in a bunch of state’s rights issue, whereas Standing Rock was a much clearer and more direct grievance with the federal government.

It is also because there are no buffalos in Flint.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but in truth, Flint will never see the same mass support that Standing Rock had.

Sure folks care about what’s happening in Detroit. They cared enough to send bottled water. And they cared enough to sign a petition urging our government to investigate.

But that is as far as it went. Nobody drove from miles across the country to camp out in protest outside of the governor’s mansion. Not one made t-shirts to be show support and raise money for the cause. And very few of us made the effort beyond a few angry status updates on Facebook.

Folks just didn’t empathize with the people of Flint in the same way they had for folks at Standing Rock.

And when you think about it, you certainly can understand why: Flint is mostly Black and poor. Whereas Standing Rock had Native Americans, drum circles and tepees. There was also bulldozers, bullets and water canons. There were concerts and even Jane Fonda.

White folks got to dress up and chant alongside Native America elders. Celebrities got positive press and their activist card stamped and renewed for the approval of the Hollywood “liberal” elite. And of course, there was roaming buffalo, which was the cherry-on-top of the spectacle:

In short, it was like the got-damn script to Avatar. Or as duly noted by GQ writer Jay Willis in the piece entitled, “Dear Fellow White People: Standing Rock Isn’t Goddamn Burning Man:”

Yes, apparently some Johnny-come-lately Caucasian protesters have been comparing the protests to Burning Man, using donations to buy fluoride-free water, and—the cardinal sin of white people everywhere—playing their guitars around campfires. My fellow white people: do not do this shit! Standing Rock is not the place for you to embark on a meaningful spiritual journey to find yourself.”

But it most certainly was.

As important of a cause and win Standing Rock turned out to be, the truth is very little action would have happened if not for the cause’s appeal to the White imagination.

And unfortunately for Flint, there are no buffalos, drum circles or opportunities for White folks to indulge in a savior complex.

It’s just regular ol’ Black and poor people.

Image via AP Images

Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic, free-thinker, slick-mouth feminist and the reigning queen of unpopular opinions. She is also from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.

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