On Forest Hill Road in Jackson, Mississippi, there is a story that seems to touch many of this nation’s challenges.

It is the story of Tommy and Celeste, a couple in a city without drinking water.

“It’s so sad. Something needs to be done. We can’t even flush the toilet or anything. It’s so bad,” Celeste tells me.

We are in their kitchen. She turns on the tap. There was no water yesterday. Today, a thread but it is not safe. Tomorrow, who knows?

“We can boil water to take a bath. But we can’t take a bath in the water they have here. We can’t take a bath in that,” says Tommy.

He tells me he hasn’t bathed without boiling water since 2019.

It’s a story of poor infrastructure, chronic mismanagement, funding limits. It is compounded by storm damage: the Pearl River broke its levees last week, damaging a water treatment plant that was not fit for purpose anyway.

But Tommy and Celeste feel it’s more than that.

“This is mainly the black area. So we just have this problem,” says Tommy.

“Wherever you go, they have water. And good pressure. In this area we don’t do that because it’s mostly black. So I think they’re doing something with this money. They once had the money, but now they don’t. they have the money. To me it’s just that they don’t care about black people in my opinion. “

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The couple has to boil water for bathing

Here in Jackson, it’s about improvising to survive. Celeste leads me to the back of their house.

On the ground, positioned under the eaves of the roof, he shows me a large plastic bucket.

“Let’s fill this tub to flush the toilet.”

Stops. “We don’t really have to live like this. It’s like we’re going back to the days of slaves.”

It’s Tommy who collapses first. “It’s very very frustrating. I’m tired …” he says before he starts to cry.

“Don’t cry …” Celeste says.

“We should live better than that,” she says sobbing.

“It’s really sad. Down here in Mississippi it’s really sad. People down here need help. It’s so sad here.”

What an indictment against America this is. Every day they now have to drive to a water distribution center. They wait in a long line of cars.

The Mississippi National Guard is on hand to help. We observe how young soldiers from across the state load boxes of free bottled water into each vehicle.

It is a sign that the immediate challenges are now being addressed.

But what about this legacy of failure?

Tommy and Celeste say they 'can't even flush the toilet'
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Tommy and Celeste say they “can’t even flush the toilet”

It is well known that the Democratic mayor of the city, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, has been asking for much more funding from the Republican-led state for years.

“We made it clear that we needed support, that we need support, and so this remains the position and we have drawn up several efforts to make their business come true and so we will continue to do so,” he told me.

I asked Mayor Lumumba about the allegations of racism.

“Well, I’d say this is America and those things are true,” he said.

The day before I had asked the Republican governor, Tate Reeves, why the city is in such an extraordinary position. He only offered a detour.

“Well, what I’d tell you is, and I know that you in print really want to play the blame game and you really want to focus on pitting different people against each other, and that’s definitely your priority, and that’s okay.

“What we focus on is the immediate health and well-being of Jackson’s residents.”

No one can tell Tommy, Celeste, and Jackson’s people when their water is safe.

Throughout this city, silently and with all the dignity they can manage, many are struggling.

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