As if we, especially Black folks, didn’t already have enough problems going on due to white supremacy, on Oct. 3, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Sackett v. EPA. The Court will decide what waters can and cannot be protected under the Clean Water Act — our nation’s most critical tool for safeguarding our streams, wetlands, and other waterways.
If you didn’t know, now you do— white supremacy and capitalism are getting out of control by trying to redefine the meaning of water, as if all water doesn’t deserve to be protected.
If we just borrowed the meaning from The Lakota phrase “Mní wičhóni” (“Water is life”), we legitimately would not even be subject to this political nonsense. Nevertheless, in already oversaturated, polluted Black communities, we must be on guard and attentive as we await the looming decision from the Supreme Court regarding Sackett v. EPA.
But first, let’s break it down: (1) What is this case all about; (2) What’s at stake in the Black community; and (3) How can the Black community prepare to clap back and protect our waters.
What Is the Sackett v. EPA Case All About?
First, let’s get into who the “Sacketts” are. Michael and Chantell Sackett are landowners in Idaho with deep connections to major polluters ranging from, you guessed it, the oil and gas industry, mining, toxic developers, and dirty corporate agricultural businesses.
The Sacketts were big mad beginning in 2007 and initiated a formal dispute with the EPA once they learned that a new land purchase was subject to the Clean Water Act. In white privilege fashion, the Sacketts attempted to bypass the EPA’s permitting process and straight up sued EPA. Whew! The caucasity!
What’s at Stake in the Black Community?
To understand what’s at stake, it’s important to understand a little bit about what the Clean Water Act of 1972 does. It:
- sets and enforces national water quality standards restricting pollution;
- establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States; and
- invests in wastewater treatment and better wetlands management, and so much more.
Any weakening of any parts of the Clean Water Act greatly increases the occurrence of public health threats, particularly to the Black community, which is disproportionately impacted by legacy pollution and environmental racism, compounded by climate change.
As we learned from the Flint Water Crisis, water pollution can result in irreversible, lifelong health issues. Water pollution is not isolated — just as water flows, so can its contaminants.
For example, in parts of the country, Black folks love to engage in the great outdoors and go fishing. Weakening the Clean Water Act could put some rivers, streams, lakes, and even more bodies of local water at risk of contamination.
How Can the Black Community Prepare to Clap Back and Protect Our Waters?
The three big ways the Black community can fight to protect our waters are:
- Spread the word by educating your friends, families, and neighbors about what’s at stake with the Sackett v. EPA Case. MAKE IT PLAIN! Make sure community members can see and feel the direct connection to everyday life. You can start by watching and sharing educational videos like this that best inform the community on what’s happening and what they can do.
- Tell your congressperson(s) to fight to protect your water.
- Push your local and state elected officials to maintain local power and control over your waters!
Listen, one thing Black folks are NOT going to do is give up without a fight, and this battle to protect our waters is far from over…it is just the beginning.
Learn more about the Clean Water Act and the specific types of water protected by downloading the Black Millennials 4 Flint’s social media kit.
LaTricea D. Adams, MAT, Ed.S., is a proud native of Memphis, Tennessee, and the Founder, CEO & President of Black Millennials 4 Flint, a national grassroots organization created to take action and advocate against lead exposure in African American & Latinx communities. LaTricea is also the youngest African American Woman appointed to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC).