Right now, Calandra Davis’ water pressure is too low to take a shower. When she turns on her sinks, the water comes out at a slow trickle. For weeks, she’s had to bathe herself and her 6-year-old son with water from store-bought bottles. Like all residents of Jackson, Mississippi, she’s also been on a boil-water notice for a week due to high turbidity. But in many ways, she feels lucky.
“I feel like I’m privileged in that I have water at all right now and in that I didn’t go super long without water,” she said. Unlike more than 50,000 people in her city, she also didn’t lose power.
Davis, a policy analyst at Hope Policy Institute and organizer with the social justice organization Black Youth Project 100, has been spending hours each day on mutual aid efforts, delivering food and water, and helping get those without utilities into hotel rooms. While working a local emergency relief hotline, she’s heard from people who are struggling because they have medical conditions that require electronic devices or water access, and from dozens whose groceries all spoiled when their power went out. She says in Jackson, the lowest-income Black communities in the south and west are facing the worst effects.
“It’s environmental racism,” she said.
Infrastructural issues in Jackson aren’t new, and they’re also not unique to the city. They’re endemic in the state, and they disproportionately affect poor, Black populations. Though the spotlight might still be on Texas, it’s clear that the infrastructure we rely on for modern life is in dire need of updates across the South. If we don’t make them, low-income people of color will continue to suffer the worst burdens.
During last month’s southern cold snap, Texas captured headlines. But Mississippi and other parts of the South faced similar frigid conditions that national news crews passed over. Some parts of the state saw their lowest temperatures in recorded history, and water systems throughout central Mississippi were thrown into complete disarray. Jackson’s main water plant was rendered inoperable by the cold. Davis lost water altogether for two days. While her water is marginally back, others are currently on their third week without any. While the weather has warmed up, people’s lives are still stuck in mid-February.
Like Texas, Mississippi is a state run by conservatives who believe in very limited government, which has made these immediate issues harder to overcome. Organizers like Davis have stepped in to help, but the lack of national attention has left them with a smaller stream of donations than those pouring into Texas organizations.
“Texas needs and…