Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Jackson Mississippi Residents Still Don’t Have Clean Water

Four weeks after freak storms crippled the Texas power grid and water systems across the South, the majority-Black city of Jackson, Mississippi is still without clean water. 

Jonathan Read

March 12, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share
Photo: Rogelio V. Solis / AP

In mid-February, unprecedented winter storms swept through the southern United States, crippling transportation and leaving millions without power. Nearly three weeks later, thousands of residents in Jackson, Mississippi are still without clean running water. This event is another reminder of how the climate catastrophe exacerbates the existing inequities and vulnerabilities perpetuated by capitalism. Meanwhile, the state government’s glacial response is a testament to lawmaker’s racist contempt for the Black community in Mississippi and disregard for Black lives more broadly.

The crisis began during the week of February 15, when winter storms caused temperatures to plummet nearly forty degrees below the seasonal average for the southern United States. While the critical failure of the privatized electrical grid in the state of Texas attracted national media attention—with reports of nearly 4 million residents left without power, tragic (and preventable) deaths by exposure and carbon monoxide poisoning, and absentee government officials — the storms’ impact on the regions’ water supply received much less attention. Nearly half a million Texans were left without running water—along with most of Jackson, Mississippi, one of the nation’s largest majority-Black cities.

During the storms water processing machinery froze, leading to multiple burst water mains that deprived many of the city’s 160,000 residents of running water. By February 22, the state health department reported that of those with water, 300,000 Mississippians were under a boil-water advisory due to the possible contamination of the water supply. Efforts to restore water were further compounded by mechanical failures last Thursday. The crisis doubtlessly created unhygienic conditions that could accelerate the ongoing Covid pandemic as residents scrambled to find bottled water and travelled to gather non-potable water to flush toilets.

While Republican Governor Tate Reeves eventually activated the Mississippi National Guard to assist with water distribution, this inadequate and late response came alongside disparaging remarks about the city’s majority-Black residents, many of whom live in poverty. “I do think it’s really important that the City of Jackson start collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money,” Reeves said. These snide remarks come at the same time that Reeves and Texas Governor Greg Abbot flaunted public health guidance dropping mask mandates and urging the premature opening of businesses in the midst of the pandemic. 

Governor Tate Reeves open contempt for the city of Jackson fits squarely within a longstanding conflict between the state legislature — a blindingly white, conservative body preserved by decades of voter suppression in the Blackest US state — and the city of Jackson, which, since white flight to nearby suburbs began in the 1970s, has become majority-Black.

It is no coincidence that the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir — which supplies the majority of Jackson and the surrounding area’s water supply — was named after the unapologetic segregationist governor who spearheaded massive resistance to the Mississippi freedom struggle during the 1960s. The landmark’s questionable namesake hints to the current crisis’s roots in Jim Crow oppression and the reason that majority Black residents are allowed to go so long without clean water. 

Facebook Twitter Share

Guest Posts

Haverford College student Kinnan Abdalhamid and Brown University students Tahseen Ahmed and Hisham Awartani, Palestinian college students who were shot in Burlington, Vermont.

Haverford Faculty for Justice in Palestine Releases Statement Supporting Pro-Palestinian Students

Haverford College Faculty for Justice in Palestine have published a statement following the shooting of three Palestinian students in Burlington, Vermont.

Balata Refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestine following a bombing in November 2023.

“No Wounded, Only Martyrs”: Night Shift Stories from a Nurse in the West Bank

A Palestinian nurse working in Nablus details his experience working the night shift in a hospital following the bombing of the Balata Refugee Camp.

Palestine Is a Worker Struggle: UAW Graduate Student Workers in California Show Solidarity with Palestine

UAW graduate students at the University of Southern California joined the walkout for Palestine during their picket line. U.S. labor must fight for Palestinian liberation!

Maryam Alaniz

November 16, 2023

When History Failed to Turn

One hundred years ago, a communist uprising took place in Hamburg. But the revolution in the rest of Germany was canceled.

Doug Enaa Greene

November 14, 2023


Robert Habeck Wrote a Play Praising a Right-Wing Mass Murderer

Germany's Green vice chancellor strikes many as an idealist who has been struggling with the tough realities of government. Yet before he was a national politician, he wrote a play that opens a window into a dark soul.

Nathaniel Flakin

December 1, 2023

The World Kissinger Built Must Die Too

Henry Kissinger died at 100 years old. But his legacy remains in the brutal world system he built and the future generations of imperialist ghouls he inspired. They all must go.

Samuel Karlin

November 30, 2023

Fact Check: Did German Leftists Try to Bomb West Berlin’s Jewish Community Center in 1969?

Answer: No. The bombing was undertaken by West Germany’s domestic secret service, originally founded by Nazis.

Nathaniel Flakin

November 29, 2023
Protesters in NYC for Palestinian liberation.

Uniting Workers for Palestine Is a Fight for the Future of Labor

The struggle for Palestine shows the potential for the rank and file to push unions to break with imperialism and to build a new, combative, and internationalist unionism.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

November 27, 2023