Current Events Justice

Water is a God-given right

Rev. Brittini L. Palmer

They won’t hunger or thirst; the burning heat and sun won’t strike them, because one who has compassion for them will lead them and will guide them by springs of water.

Isaiah 49:10

Everyone should be able to clean their children with water after playtime with friends. Everyone should be able to savor a refreshing cup of water when they need it. To relax in a tub after a long day of work and prepare a home-cooked meal for their family. These sentiments may sound simple, but there are people worldwide, especially Black people, who don’t experience them. 

When our basic needs are jeopardized, stripped from us, or negotiated away, we often tell ourselves a very convenient (and telling) lie: that access to clean water is subject to the whims of government officials but is not a God-given right. 

Everyone should have access to clean water. Many of us have taken for granted that officials at every level of our government are the ones who make decisions about our water. When government officials decide which neighborhoods should get updated water service lines, they often overlook Black communities. Black people, by and large, are the ones who receive water from crumbling pipes. 

Crumbling pipes taint the water that Black babies must drink, stunting their growth and interfering with their learning. Crumbling pipes force families to spend absurd amounts of money on cases of bottled water. Crumbling pipes force Black families to make difficult and unjustifiable choices between clean water and other basic needs. 

When you have clean water, it’s easy to overlook (or avoid) other people’s reality. Many of those in power claim to “care,” yet they have ignored the humanity of Black people. Crumbling pipes and tainted water are a reality affecting majority Black cities all over America. It’s a reality that Black Mississippians have lived with for far too long. 

Black people have experienced centuries worth of destruction in Mississippi. The state is plagued with neglect of its infrastructure and environmental racism. Mississippi is where Medgar Evans, Joetha Collier, and Emmett Till were murdered. It’s where Republican lawmakers undercut programs that serve the poor. It’s where so-called “leaders” and famous football players steal millions of dollars from those who need it most. Mississippi has never treated Black people fairly.

Many Black residents suffer from frequent water service stoppages and boil orders. Black people have complained and pleaded with their city and state officials, but no one came to their rescue by offering substantive, structural solutions. 

No one should hunger or have to plead for better water conditions, not when God created water so that we may live and have the fullness of life. Rev Elias Wolf of Brazil put it this way, “Rivers are a gift from God for all people, not for the corporations that seek to divert and exploit them. We can’t change the path of water for the desire of one person.” My boyfriend, who was born in Ghana, sums this sentiment up well by reminding me that “water is life.” In Isaiah 49:10, when God promised restoration to Israel, he said, “They won’t hunger or thirst; the burning heat and sun won’t strike them, because one who has compassion for them will lead them and will guide them by springs of water.” 

No one should go thirsty. No one should have their life disrupted by a lack of running water. No one should watch their children be sick from preventable health conditions. This doesn’t just apply to people in certain countries or zip codes. 

We should not quietly accept when people’s God-given rights are stolen from them. We should not leave it to the government leaders who were content with watching their constituents slowly die. We must scream from the rooftops, “we shall not hunger or thirst,” even when our leaders fail to protect us. 

It’s time for each of us to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to the role we have to play in making sure that none of God’s children are thirsty. We must reclaim our time and, most importantly, our God-given rights from people who are okay with children drinking tainted water from crumbling pipes. Water–clean water–is our God-given right.