The child of Iraqi immigrants, Mona Hanna-Attisha grew up hearing stories about her activist ancestors who stood up to tyrannical governments. She learned that not all governments seek the well-being of their citizens.
However, as an American citizen, she absorbed the hopes of the American Dream and believed that the United States government at all levels would do what was best for its people.
In 2014, when the city government of Flint, Mich., chose to change the source of its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in order to save money, Dr. Mona—as she was called by her patients and their families—was serving as a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital. The parents of her patients began mentioning that the water coming from their taps smelled foul and was brown.
When she heard rumors that the water was tainted with lead, she first refused to believe it because of the government’s assurances that the water was good to drink. After all, no government in the U.S. would lie to its citizens, would it?
But a series of conversations and events awakened Dr. Mona to the truth: Flint’s children were being poisoned by lead because of the city’s austerity measures.
According to Dr. Mona, what happened as a result of the city of Flint’s decision is “the story of the most important and emblematic environmental and public health disaster of this young century.” More than that, it is a story of environmental injustice: “The demographics of a community—race—had played a role in creating this environmental crisis. . . . Race had kept the crisis going long after it should have been stopped.”
Despite its sobering content, What the Eyes Don’t See is a story of hope, as numerous people from many walks of life came together, fought injustice, and brought a government to its knees, affecting real change. (One World)