Memorial Day is a day of reflection and reverence for those who have died in service to our country. It is also a day to remember the principles these brave individuals fought for: liberty, justice, and equality. However, the Memorial Day holiday also brings into sharp focus an ongoing issue that stands in stark contrast to these ideals—the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi. This crisis, which has disproportionately afflicted the city’s majority-Black population, particularly its disabled residents, is a distressing symbol of systemic racism, bigotry, and the escalating climate crisis. It necessitates our immediate attention and decisive action.
In August 2022, a series of storms, intensified by the rapidly changing climate, overwhelmed Jackson’s water treatment system, precipitating a widespread water crisis. The climate crisis, a global concern, has heightened the frequency and severity of such extreme weather events, and vulnerable communities are often hit the hardest.
Water infrastructure, including treatment centers, must be designed and constructed to withstand the impacts of climate change. This includes strengthening and modernizing existing facilities and designing new ones with resilience in mind. Green infrastructure solutions, such as utilizing natural systems for stormwater management, can help mitigate flooding and reduce the strain on water treatment facilities.
However, the issue is about more than infrastructure. It’s about the people affected by the crisis, especially Jackson’s Black disabled residents. Many of these individuals, grappling with poverty, lack the resources to ensure clean water access. The provision of bottled water, while an immediate solution, only serves as a temporary fix and is not a sustainable or environmentally-friendly one. This reality underscores the need for long-term solutions that address the intersecting crises of climate change, systemic racism, and inequality.
Disabled Black residents in Jackson are not merely victims of a broken system. They are resilient people who, despite the odds, continue to navigate and survive in a world that frequently overlooks their needs. But resilience alone is insufficient. Systemic barriers need to be dismantled, and everyone, regardless of their physical abilities, should be able to live with dignity and without fear of being overlooked. We must ensure that the voices of the disabled are heard and that they are at the forefront of the decision-making processes that directly impact their lives.
In honoring the memory of those who have died in service to our country this Memorial Day, it is incumbent upon us to also remember the legacy of racism and bigotry, and the escalating climate crisis and to act upon it.
In these challenging times, everyone can contribute to the cause. Donations to organizations providing relief to the affected population in Jackson, reaching out to elected officials to demand their support for policies addressing the crisis’s root causes, or volunteering personal time to aid relief efforts – these are all ways through which we can make a difference.
Our fight against bigotry, racism, and the climate crisis should not be limited to a single day or event; it needs to be a continuous, collective effort. The water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, underscores the urgency of this fight. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose, for the sake of a more equitable, sustainable, and just society. Sustainable solutions must be the cornerstone of our efforts, ensuring that we leave behind a world that is better, not just for us, but for future generations.
As we navigate the challenges posed by the climate crisis and systemic racism, the inclusion of marginalized voices, particularly those of the Black disabled community, is both a moral and strategic imperative.
The water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, is a stark example of the intersection of systemic racism, climate change, and neglect. But it can also be a turning point, a catalyst for change. We have the opportunity to address these intersecting crises head-on, to advocate for systemic change, and to create a society that is equitable, inclusive, and resilient.
On this Memorial Day, let’s recommit to the principles of liberty, justice, and equality. We should also recognize that the intersecting crises of human and environmental injustices can turn into opportunities – opportunities to convert reflections into actions that contribute to a healthier climate and stronger communities that honor every voice.