Of Power and Poison

Sometimes we don’t even notice things that determine our lives.

coffee and a blank page


“My family drank fluoridated water from the city taps when I was born, over 40 years ago. We lived in newly built housing close to a well-maintained park; my mother bought fresh produce at a nearby grocery and weekend farmers’ markets. When my parents moved out of the city a few years later, I found myself in a verdant suburb with expansive lawns, a gurgling neighborhood creek, and air so fresh I never thought to notice it.

Year after cavity-free year of my childhood, dentists and hygienists praised my superior flossing and brushing skills as if I had created that outcome—though in reality, my tooth-cleaning habits were no different from those of any other child.

I carry the bodily imprint of my racial privilege right down to the strength of my teeth.

The families and children of Flint, Michigan, have also been drinking water that changes the makeup of their…

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