Home | About | Donate

Flint Is About How We Treat the Poor


Flint Is About How We Treat the Poor

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Dear white people:

As you no doubt know, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, returned to the headlines last week with news that the state attorney general is charging three government officials for their alleged roles in the debacle. It makes this a convenient moment to deal with something that has irked me about the way this disaster is framed.

Namely, the fact that people who look like you often get left out of it.

Consider some of the headlines:


This is brilliantly rendered:

"In the Civil War, white men too poor to own slaves died in grotesque numbers to protect the “right” of a few plutocrats to continue that despicable practice. In the Industrial Revolution, white workers agitating for a living wage were kept in line by the threat that their jobs would be given to “Negroes.”

And today’s post-NAFTA undeclared Depression turns the military into the employer of last resort. That way, poor sons (and now daughters) risk their lives, limbs, and moral sanity in acting as murderers for hire while it’s only the banks, Arms Industries, and assorted corporations (that are to war what bloodsuckers are to mammals) that profit from these diabolical ventures.

Very well written piece, Mr. Pitts. Thank you.


“That animus is very strong, certainly continues today and was adopted by the few People of Color elites, like Bill Cosby, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Barak Obama.”

The passive frame–“that animus was adopted” works like recent frames heard in the news. One described the death of a Black man in custody as “an arm coming around ____________.” And of course, whenever the subject is the many wars “not being won,” the frame is “Mistakes were made.”

The more salient analysis recognizes that ONLY those who salute the existing Status Quo are going to rise within it. It’s that simple.

If adopting to the Dominator-based Dominant culture is what grants rewards, then the most ambitious of persons–be they Black, Latino, or women–will do their utmost to internalize the mores than prop up the temples of today’s Money-changers.

Many in this forum extrapolate–from this necessary adaptation–the FALSE notion that all people are alike. This limited analysis works to reinforce the status quo since it argues that there IS no alternative to it. Essentially, it’s asserting that human nature is fixed and based on a me-first quest for greed and/or power.

What has not been seen are those societies that are truly based in equal representation. Thus it’s impossible (and an impossible conceit) to insist that WERE there equal representation, matters would be (or turn out) exactly the same.

Those who take this stance (and they indeed DO dominate these message threads) dismiss the conditioning power of the dominant hierarchy and all of the tools it has at its disposal to program people to adapt (to it), or pay the consequences.

However, since very few societies (apart from the witness of ancient art relics) have been anything other than top-down, male-run, patriarchal entities, there is no LIVING example of what kinds of values and priorities would shape cultures and societies were they NOT forced into the same dominant model.

So far, while a number of tokens (Black, Female and Latino) have been let into the upper circles of the temples of power, they are let it precisely because they only act as TOKENS. They do NOTHING to shift the power arrangements that would allot more voice and policy determinations to those groups who have ALWAYS been left out.

And yes. The poor factor profoundly into this category… and calculus.


[quote=“EnemyofWar, post:2, topic:21537”]
“As with Brauchli’s article about law and its corruption I linked to the fundamental immorality of the nation, the root of this problem comes from the same place and won’t change until the attitude of the citizenry changes since that change in attitude is the necessary driver to get the elite to change.”

Here, again, is a frame that puts the onus on the citizenry as if it came to these inclinations (presuming they are true) by some kind of natural law or caprice.

This stance IGNORES all of the elaborate conditioning mechanisms that are in place precisely to produce specific outcomes–in terms of mass behavior:

  1. TV Media–The preponderance of respectable (if not very pretty or handsome) polished Talking Heads all shaping the nation’s narrative along with what views qualify as being “serious” or “adult” or “valid” and which do not…

  2. Today’s Education system which is being undermined by clone-like Standardized Testing in what exists of its public sector, and Christian End Times Holy War indoctrination in the majority of its now state (which is to say taxpayer) funded charter schools.

  3. Piss Poor diet and Lousy Wages: This combination is eroding public mental health in big ways. The low wages create lives of quiet desperation where people who toil like beasts of burden are told they’re lucky to have jobs at all. And to quell the Depression, there are Huxley-like mood altering soma drugs, a/k/a Anti-depressants.

  4. Fundamentalist Religion: The insistence on doctrines of inclusion and exclusion, who’s holy and who’s not, and worst of all: that war comports with God’s will… has led to untold calamities and the death of MILLIONS.

Thus there’s a constellation of media luminaries, religious authorities, political “leaders,” and educators who all PUSH a particular version of “reality” that people are forced to adapt to.

Any so bold as to tell the truth are socially marginalized or in many instances, legally penalized.

The importation of Nazi scientists who frequently were fielded to numerous Ivy League Universities to pursue studies in mind control (after W. W. II) is no fluke.

There are always striking parallels that emerge among societies that become militarized:

  1. Those who support Labor Rights, Environmental Rights, and the rights of particular groups–women, the poor, Blacks–are targeted (often for assassination).
  2. The media becomes an arm of the state and uses slick propaganda to manufacture at least some consensus for its programs and pogroms.
  3. Armed guards become a pervasive presence (in the U.S they wear a wide array of uniforms: TSA, Coast Guard, FBI, Homeland Security, police, sheriff departments, highway patrols, border patrols, etc.)

And families act as the passive, reliable engines of indoctrination since parents generally want their children to be safe within the existing society. Most families stress conformity to the dominant mores.

Just as posters always show up to blame the individual driver when articles speak about the insidious ways that Oil companies block investments in wiser technologies; and posters show up who turn the problems of power onto population numbers and/or the supposed critical moral flaws in persons or human nature… YOUR FRAME takes the deliberate socialization of persons and makes that into their individual responsibility.

These inversions are intended to give The Programmers (i.e. the 1%) a pass, while placing blame on individuals.

People all over the world have woken up, and all over the world there are massive protests. THAT doesn’t change the calculus of power since this world has largely come to this point in history after MANY centuries of indoctrination to king-vassal arrangements. They go by a number of names but the logistics are the same.

Those at the very top own the majority of resources and they use their power, resources, and influence to keep things THAT way.

Serfs didn’t want to be serfs. Slaves didn’t want to be slaves. Women didn’t want to be treated as 2nd class chattel. The Native Americans didn’t want to be herded onto reservations, etc.

ARMED POWER is dangerous and it’s ARMED power that has subdued the people and used its religious, academic, legal, and fiscal muscle to set up pyramids of privilege, access, opportunity, and representation.

Another world IS laboring to be born… and this one will not maintain the old hierarchies. Things ARE splitting apart and this trend will escalate. The old tyrants who sat at the top of the various industries and entities that centralized power will find it impossible to maintain their former operations.

Earth Changes ARE underway that will make the old paradigm impossible to maintain.

Watch for falling debris.


Nice post. Liked this: " … ONLY those who salute the existing Status Quo are going to rise within it."
And: “Essentially, it’s asserting that human nature is fixed and based on a me-first quest for greed and/or power.”

Agree that human nature is not fixed, nor is it totally malleable (though movement to malleability is increasingly in the pipeline per exponential gains in knowledge? & additional factors. Seems like it.)
Guess I’m saying, and not a revelation, it’s complex stuff. Agree that conditioning is a significant variable in the equation.

Re domination, yes, people are not alike, and think domination is prevalent app on file.
And there’s this: “The world is inherently hierarchical.” Ray Kurzweil
I don’t think he’s necessarily talking about human relationships, more the general structure of reality, but think some of that applies to human organization, to social structures. And yes, hierarchy is not the same as domination, but think that structure contributes to the frequent use of domination.
And honestly, think there is some DNA in the equation as well. Not that it always has to be expressed.
There are alpha chimps, wolves, gorillas, birds, etc. Again, leadership need not be cruel, unjust.

Think this is also a cool knowledge nugget from: Our Inner Ape – Franz de Waal Primatologist

" . . . when a voice is filtered, removing all higher frequencies, one hears nothing but a low-pitched hum. All words are lost. But then it was found that this low hum is an unconscious social instrument. It is different for each person, but in the course of a conversation people tend to converge. The settle on a single hum, and it is always the lower person who does the adjusting. This was first demonstrated in an analysis of the Larry King Live television show. The host, Larry King, would adjust his timbre to that of high-ranking guests, like Mike Wallace or Elizabeth Taylor. The clearest adjustment to King’s voice, indicating lack of confidence, came from former Vice President Dan Quayle.”

“The telling hum, when applied to televised presidential debates from “1960 to 2000 the popular vote matched the voice analysis: the majority of people voted for the candidate who held his own timbre rather than the one who adjusted.” This was true with Al Gore in 2000, too, who won the popular vote, but lost the election.”

Then there’s this from theoretical physicist Mark Buchanan’s book Ubiquity " . . . the way people aggregate into cities doesn’t depend at all on the fact that they are people. It may be somewhat insulting to say this, but similar patterns can show up for similar reasons in mindless colonies of aggregating bacteria or clusters of smoke particles deposited on a ceiling. And they also show up in another place: in the way money gathers–or, all too frequently, fails to gather–in our pockets and bank accounts.”
So, physics too.
Again, hierarchy can be humane.

Re: the poor, Larry Chang has generated a new econ app he calls the Planetary Index.
For those interested, an interview with Mr. Chang: http://ow.ly/Znz4G
Some theoretical support for his perspective: http://ow.ly/Zny2a
It’s my site, an interview I did.
Best …


It’s a class thing. It’s about how the capitalist class and their political minions treat the working class of any color. The author’s right. Color is beside the point. Class is the point. What was done to Flint residents is class war sure as shit.


adapting to



Yes, race is indeed a factor, but economics is perhaps the biggest factor that determines how we are treated as humans. Money sure does open lots of doors in my town, and as white as I am, I’ve had it slammed on me many times due to my economic status


The article is not excellent due to that rhetorical device. It is dangerous and I will continue to point out why.

For instance, are the poor contained in the WE that penalizes the poor?

Are poor single mothers also contained in that passive frame that pretends to speak for all?

You’re one of the Minders in this forum. I fully expect for you to salute the Status Quo. Plausibly, True Believers cannot see any alternative to it. But then, they also tend to be white males who don’t WANT any changes to the system… although they frequently talk a good game about capitalism.

While biking earlier today it hit me how RIGID this forum is, and how the Group Think (I happen to believe it’s engineered through embeds, and that’s hardly a secret… but even if it occurred organically, it would produce the same outcome) limits the conversation in SO many ways.

There are so many subjects that are NOT spoken about. Some that are outright censored as I recently experienced with an honest questioning of the Zika item and vaccines in general.

That kind of knee jerk conformity I fully expect on the Right; but it doesn’t resonate with truly Progressive people.


Nice post back at ya.

THIS is a conversation. A debate with substance… and it differs from the usual knee jerk soldier responses… so it’s refreshing.

Obviously, we could volley these ideas around and cite sources that run for PAGES.

I’ll quit here. Just checking in. It’s Saturday night! Have a good one!


Yes, but, the capitalists use race to divide the working class as well, its a significant part of what keeps the few in power.


Yes, yes, Saturday night! Thanks much. Props to thee. You have a good one as well.


And, Leonard Pitts, do you remember after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, how police officials closed a bridge in an adjoining parish, not allowing the poorest devastated by Katrina to leave?