In the 1990s, Michigan was famed for our clean skies and pure waters. Fast forward to 2020: That appears to be a thing of the past.
Now, Detroit is one of the most polluted cities in America. Nearby Flint, a majority Black city, is still suffering from the lingering injustice of the Flint Water Crisis, which exacerbates the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease, and increases susceptibility to Legionnaires and the newest crisis: coronavirus.
Across the country, we’re seeing a stark connection between areas who’ve long suffered from pollution who are now getting hit the hardest from coronavirus.
Detroit, a city that is nearly 77% African American, is the epicenter for COVID-19 cases in Michigan. While African Americans only represent 14% of the total state population, they account for 31% of overall COVID-19 cases and 40% of deaths.
It’s clear Michigan is fighting against systemic problems: pollution has harmed our state because companies have been allowed to poison our communities with little consequence. Breathing dirty air exacerbates health concerns that make us susceptible to COVID. And then there is the president.
In our moment of need, instead of ensuring Michiganders received essential federal support, our president turned his back, using us as political pawns to further his agenda.
This president — whose main job is to protect our democracy — undermined efforts to expand vote-by-mail, threatened to withhold resources Michigan needs to recover from the flooding and COVID-19, and reinforced his anti-science bias — putting us even more at risk of future incidents of extreme weather events. As if the litany of grievances wasn’t long enough, while many in Michigan have joined communities around the world protesting against police brutality with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and an untold number of other Black individuals, Trump targeted the protesters with malicious tweets, threats of violence and incarceration.
This president has never exemplified adequate leadership. Since before he took office, he has disrespected our system of government, made a mockery of the United States on the world stage and relentlessly targeted his personal and professional critics. His anti-Black, anti-immigrant and anti-science agenda has sparked widespread hatred that has unraveled years of progress and social justice work.
The 2020 elections have unleashed a new level of vitriol — and he is now building greater hostility toward our communities with actions that could put Michiganders in peril. Our president does not have the best track record with women. Maybe he’s trying to diminish the significance of our state because he’s intimidated by Governor Gretchen Whitmer — or as he calls her, “that woman from Michigan.” The origins of his animosity could very well be because Michigan voters are vital to his fleeting chances at re-election.
This is a dangerous game for the president to play. Trump is underwater in Michigan, with just 42% of voters approving of the job he’s doing, according to RealClearPolitics.
All this comes as we are entering the summer months, which brings further threats of extreme weather. With FEMA overwhelmed by COVID-19, the Trump administration is woefully unprepared for the floods, extreme heat, wildfires, poor air quality and droughts that have become increasingly common due to the climate crisis. This leaves communities across Michigan at risk for widespread devastation, economic insecurity and death.
Environmental justice leaders and civil rights activists are amplifying the 60 plus environmental rollbacks the current administration has brought forth. Voters will watch closely as Trump continuously fails to respond to extreme weather events in Michigan and across the country. Recent polling shows Americans are increasingly concerned about climate change. For the first time, a majority of persuadable Americans could be swayed by a candidate's willingness to listen to scientists and experts. The American people don’t believe that climate change is “fake news.”
In Michigan, we are counting down the days to November. We are living with the impacts of climate change with bouts of intense flooding, droughts and a disheartening increase of asthma sufferers. Research shows that the severity of summer droughts could triple in the next three decades and that nearly 350,000 individuals live in at-risk flood zones in our state. As of 2016, Michigan had the sixth highest prevalence rate (10.9%) of current asthma among adults compared to other US states. Approximately 25% of adults in Lake County, Michigan, have asthma — a quarter of the entire county.
Michiganders and Americans across the country are ready for leaders who will protect us from the next flood. And we know we cannot afford more failed leadership from a bigoted, anti-science president who cares more about winning an election than valuing Black Lives and protecting the health and wellbeing of our environment where we live, work and our children play. Michigan deserves better; America needs better. Make Michigan, and the U.S. at-large, clean again.
LaTricea Adams is the founder, CEO and President of Black Millennials 4 Flint and co-chair of the Climate Power 2020 Michigan State Advisory Board.