Flint’s Problems Didn’t Start with Water

Academic Thomas Sugrue joined Detroit Today to discuss how decades of divestment created the conditions that now exist in the city.

Jake Neher/WDET

While the lead poisoning in Flint continues to devastate the city’s residents, there is so much more than poisoned water that has contributed to decades of disinvestment and hardship for people living there.  For nearly two decades the city’s income from property and income taxes has been decreasing, it has lost businesses and population — General Motors packing up didn’t do anything to help the isolated urban locale either.

As part of the 2019 WDET Book Club, WDET is exploring the Flint Water Crisis through Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha’s book on the subject, “What The Eyes Don’t See.” To look a bit deeper into the various factors that played into Flint’s current state, Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson is joined by Thomas SugrueProfessor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at NYU. Sugrue is a specialist in twentieth-century American politics, urban history, civil rights, and race.

“Think about a place like Flint or Highland Park where the water problems have been surfacing, we are dealing with communities that have endured decades and decades of disinvestment,” says Sugrue. He adds that when discussing ways to address these hardships and help the communities that have been impacted, ideas like reparations are sometimes met with “a fundamental unwillingness to confront the legacies of the past.” 

Click on the player above to hear host Stephen Henderson interview Thomas Sugrue about Flint’s legacy of divestment and hardship.



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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.