Public health historians Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner put it this way: “If the history of lead poisoning has taught us anything, it is that the worlds we as a society construct, or at least allow to be built in our name, to a large extent determine how we live and how we die.” 7 Lead is one toxic legacy in America’s cities. Another is segregation, secession, redlining, and rebranding: this is the art and craft of exclusion. We built it into the bones of our cities as surely as we laid lead pipes. The cure is inclusion. Flint’s story is a clear call for committing anew to our democratic faith in the common wealth. As the water crisis demonstrates, it is simply not good enough for government officials to say, “Trust us.” 8 For all the inefficiencies and messiness that comes with democracy, the benefits—transparency, accountability, checks and balances, and the equitable participation of all people—are worth it.
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