A few days ago, a video made the rounds about the water crisis in Detroit, where a community activist exposed the biased and inaccurate claims of a reporter. The reporter, who works for a local news outlet in Detroit, claimed that a significant amount of Detroiters whose water were being cut off, actually had the money but spent their funds on luxuries rather than necessities.
Obviously, as the activist stated in the video, the reporter's claims were overexaggerated and untrue. It's cool to go along with the "Black people (stand in line for Jordan's, buy clothes, buy drugs) but don't(vote, go to school, pay their bills) stereotype I guess. However, if you want to actually be knowledgable about the water crisis in the D, one would know that many of Detroit's citizens weren't aware of the shutoffs prior them occurring. Many others who are on the shut off list have actually tried to pay down their debts, but are still subject to losing their water service nonetheless. Not to mention that the Water Department, who has not only raised rates at a level over 100% higher than before, but Detroit's Water Department has decided to shut the water off of citizens with debts as low as $150 and only two months behind on payments. But let's not allow facts to get in the way of a juicy story.
To me, video goes along with the narrative that PoC, in particular black people, have mismatched priorities when it comes to finances. That we abuse the system. That we're not wise enough to choose necessities. That, ultimately, we are responsible for our own ruin. The victim blaming trend is not dissimilar to the treatment of Renisha Mcbride case in the Metro Detroit area, that just because she was driving drunk (and existing while Black), she deserved to be killed in cold blood (kudos to @FeministaJones, who pointed out the hypocrisy in coverage of McBride's killing yesterday)
The fact of the matter remains that this newscaster chose a salacious headline to throw Detroiters under the bus once again in the media. Thankfully, MSNBC didn't allow the truth to be completely ignored, including this one pertinent kernel: a large percentage of DWSD's unpaid receivables were from large entires like the Detroit Lions/Ford Field, the Joe Louis area, and the State of Michigan's government. It's easy to get on the people of Detroit; but when the three aforementioned entities owe millions on their own, should the powers that be within Detroit's Water Department really be focusing on the people of Detroit, or these wealthy organizations who clearly have the money to pay their water bills, but choose to spend it on raises for executives?
We as a society must discontinue the trend of blaming individuals for systemic issues, while siding with the establishment who's causing the issues in the first place. Are we really going to sit here and suggest that tax-paying American citizens be treated like feral humans in order to solve a issue rooted in racial and class discrimination from prejudiced entities? Are we so internalized in our oppression that we accept institutions shitting on us constantly, and blame individuals for their reaction to and inability to survive in deep-seeded poverty?
I want to attribute cognitive dissonance to an type of escapism where we ignore how bad things really are in our nation by blindly trusting our institutions. This blind trust involves a default judgement, that whenever an societal issue comes about, the fault does not lie with the institution (because we are in denial that our institutions are failing us), but with the individual. How reporters and many others judge the water crisis in Detroit (or the violence in Chicago) is related to this escapist mindset we have about our nation. We want to deny that institutions (housing discrimination, racist, corrupt government) failed a great city , so we blame individuals, the criminals, the drug dealers, the public schools, the Kwame Kilpatricks. And while criminals and corrupt politicians and the inadequate school systems are indeed failing cities like Detroit (and PoC populations), it is wise to focus the root of these problems to nip them in the bud.