Top Democrats in the House are investigating the state of Mississippi, its capital city of Jackson, and how officials leading both responded to a recent water supply crisis that left residents without clean water for weeks this year.
The probe, if seen through, could offer details on the systemic failures plaguing one of America’s Blackest cities, and it could lay out a roadmap for how federal authorities scrutinize and fix historic inequality.
In a letter to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Monday, Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Carolyn Maloney of New York asked how Jackson's water system is crumbling despite Congress authorizing hundreds of millions of dollars last year to improve the state's water infrastructure.
Thompson and Maloney — chairs of the powerful House committees on homeland security and oversight, respectively — raised questions about Mississippi's predominantly white suburbs near Jackson escaping similar issues with their water supply. More than 82% of Jackson's residents are Black.
“Even as the residents in Jackson suffered, a neighboring suburb’s water service continued to flow," the letter stated. "One resident described the difference between Jackson and the neighboring community of Florence — where residents enjoy dependable sewage and water service — as 'night and day.'"
But Reeves didn't appear too shaken by the crisis at the time. The Democrats noted in their letter that Reeves mocked the city of Jackson even as its residents scoured for potable water.
Here's the Reeves comment the lawmakers were referring to:
Jackson’s crisis is ongoing. Many residents are still struggling to cover the bills for water they weren't even able to use, which illustrates how infrastructure failures bleed into bureaucratic ones.
That’s why congressional scrutiny is so necessary here. Without it, Reeves and fellow conservatives, who’ve historically run a racist fiefdom in Mississippi, will be allowed to continue with impunity.
When news of Jackson’s water woes first broke, I explained that the crisis largely stemmed from white, conservative power brokers in Mississippi siphoning public funds away from Black people and others of color. What’s happening in Mississippi is only possible because of a racist power dynamic that places marginalized groups under the boots of the powerful. I’m hopeful the House’s inquiry thoroughly exposes how this dynamic has been built through years of oppression in Mississippi, how other states have created similar dynamics, and what policy proposals can be taken to fix it.