I agree that the crisis is worse than it would have been in a white community. But are we sure that in a white community it would never happen at all?
I ask because, as The New York Times notes today, people are still being killed by Takata airbags -- an assault on the safety of ordinary people that's not race-specific -- and the response by Takata, car manufacturers, and the government seems as slow and inadequate as the response to the poison water in Flint:
More than a decade after the first confirmed rupture of a Takata airbag in Alabama, and despite a vast recall spanning 14 automakers, a stark reality remains: Tens of millions of people drive vehicles that may pose a lethal danger but have not been repaired or ... have not even been recalled.You may have known that the recalls have been proceeding slowly, but did you assume that we've at least identified all the cars that are at risk? Nope. The last American to die as the result of a defective Takata airbag, Joel Knight of Rock Hill, South Carolina, did so last month, and his vehicle hadn't been subject to a recall.
Since 2000, Takata has sold as many as 54 million metal “inflaters” in the United States containing ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound that regulators believe is at the center of the problem.... About 28 million inflaters in 24 million vehicles have been recalled. And of the 28 million recalled inflaters, only about 30 percent have been repaired. The rest of the inflaters, about 26 million, have not been recalled.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stepped up its scrutiny of the problem, after a series of missteps over nearly a decade, but has stopped short of an immediate recall of all Takata airbags containing the compound. The agency does not have the authority to order people to stop driving the cars and has not advised people to avoid driving them....
Car manufacturers, at the same time, have been reluctant to sound alarms. They would face huge costs if they needed to provide loaner cars for millions of owners. Of the 14 manufacturers affected by the Takata recalls, not one has offered a blanket policy of supplying loaners.
I agree that it's been a lot easier for the government in Michigan to get away with poisoning the people Flint because most of them are black, and therefore, to a lot of Americans, they're "others." But Joel Knight was white, and the law of averages suggests that most of Takata's victims in this country are white as well. The powerful -- in government and private industry -- might avoid treating fellow elitist whites with this sort of contempt, but they have plenty of contempt for the rest of us non-elitists, even though race plays a factor in how that contempt is distributed.
Let's face it: The powerful think they're bulletproof. They think they can get away with pretty much anything. This is a global phenomenon -- and they do get away with a hell of a lot. And while it's still easier to unleash contempt on communities that don't get much respect, why would they be shy about trying to take advantage of white people, too?