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Michigan Department of Civil Rights Releases One-Year Update on Flint Water Crisis Report

April 19, 2018

Lansing - The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) today released a one-year update on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s year-long investigation into the civil rights implications of the Flint water crisis.

The Commission’s original report, The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint, included seven recommendations for action identified as essential in responding to the crisis and the abridgement of the civil rights of Flint residents. In the report update, the Department outlines progress made toward achieving each of the report’s recommendations, with a specific focus on actions taken by MDCR and the Commission in response.

“In 2017, the Commission outlined seven principal recommendations in the Flint Report. Many are beyond the control of the Department or the Commission; some are generational at best,” said MDCR Director Agustin V. Arbulu. “Though the Commission’s recommendations may be aspirational, they provide us with a road map to follow and make incremental steps forward.”

The full update, available here, describes some specific steps MDCR has taken toward achieving these recommended goals, including but not limited to:

  • Integrating a racial equity framework into all MDCR internal processes and public initiatives.
  • Hiring the first Racial Equity Officer within Michigan state government, who will also work with local units of government in Michigan.
  • Building the Department’s capacity and knowledge base in the areas of implicit bias and structural racialization, with a special focus on educating local units of government in providing racial equity training to all personnel.
  • Adopting the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) process, developed by the WK Kellogg Foundation and the Council for Michigan Foundations, and committing resources to TRHT processes in four Michigan cities - Flint, Lansing, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.
  • Redoubling community engagement efforts by assigning MDCR staff to community liaison positions in vulnerable communities throughout Michigan.
  • Placing civil rights investigators on-site at organizations in various Michigan communities to provide education on civil rights issues and take complaints, with an initial emphasis on reaching African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Arab Americans in Flint, Detroit and Grand Rapids.
  • Leveraging a $20K grant from the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) to strengthen community partnerships and develop a racial equity lens to address the issue of fair housing in the city of Kalamazoo.

“The Flint Water Report was a groundbreaking examination of the role race and racism played in creating a public health crisis of historic proportions,” said Arbulu. “The Department of Civil Rights is committed to learning from this crisis and using the tools and resources at our disposal to realize real change. We have a long way to go before we achieve racial equity in Michigan, but we are committed to the journey.”

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to safeguard constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability.


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