Fifteen years ago, in 1987, the UCC's Commission on Racial Justice released its landmark study, "Toxic Wastes and Race." The study documented the correlation between the dumping of toxic waste and the proximity of poor communities, usually communities of people of color, and coined the phrase "environmental racism."
On Saturday, April 20, to mark that anniversary, the board of directors of Justice and Witness Ministries conducted a "toxic tour" of East St. Louis, Ill. The city was cited in the report as one of the most contaminated in the country.
Board members held a public witness and press conference to oppose plans recently announced by the U.S. Army to incinerate tons of neutralized nerve gas at the Onyx Environmental Services Corporation near East St. Louis. They called the plan further evidence of the "disproportionate burden" that is borne by people-of-color communities in the processing and handling of toxic wastes.
Board members met with representatives of Good Shepherd of Faith UCC in East St. Louis, who have been actively engaged in telling the stories of toxic contamination and the negative impacts on the health and welfare of the people of their community, especially children. The tour was organized by the Rev. Buck Jones, a community organizer and environmental justice advocate, who has been working in East St. Louis on behalf of the UCC for more than 30 years.