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As the Flint water crisis continues in Michigan, one official has resigned amid disparaging and racist remarks made against the city’s black population.
On May 26, Genessee County Land Bank sales manager Phil Stair was captured blaming “n*****s who don’t pay their bills” for causing the water crisis, while talking to environmental activist Chelsea Lyons. According to audio recordings obtained by Truth Against the Machine (TAGM), Stair compared Flint’s water crisis to Detroit, saying Flint’s toxic water levels were inadvertently caused by black residents. He also argued that Flint was forced to switch from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River due to missed payments.
“Detroit was charging all its customers for the cost—they weren’t collecting from their residents, they were shutting water off, they were letting bills go forever, they were charging everybody else,” Stair said. “Flint has the same problems as Detroit—fucking n*****s don’t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them.”
Realizing what he had said, Stair tried to backpedal, explaining that he’s “got friends” who are black. He even asserted that he personally hangs out with black people.
“I don’t want to call them n*****s, shit I just went to Myrtle Beach, 24 guys, and I was the only white guy,” Stair said, according to TATM. “I got friends, I mean, there’s trash and there’s people that do this shit. They just don’t pay their bills.”
Stair’s former employer, the Land Bank, is the largest property owner in the entire city, and Lyons fears the bank is working to push out poor black residents. Flint’s government recently promised to take away over 8,000 homes from their owners if Flint residents don’t pay their water bills, despite the fact that the water supplied was tainted. Approximately 56 percent of Flint’s population is black, according to TATM.
“The Land Bank is taking up all of the properties in Flint,” Lyons said to MLive. “They are pushing people out of neighborhoods.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) previously argued that Flint was forced to rely on the toxic Flint River water supply or pay extensive prices for water from Detroit. But official documents contradict Snyder’s argument, revealing that Detroit offered to cut Flint’s rate. If Flint accepted the deal, sticking with Detroit would have been 20 percent cheaper than switching over to the Flint River. Activists fear the move was an attempt from the start to push residents out, and that the city government never truly had residents’ well-being at heart.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.