General Synod Reflection: Jayne Ryan Kuroiwa

“Environmental racism” is a commonplace term these days.  That wasn’t the case in 1985 when the UCC Commission for Racial Justice published “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.”  General Synod delegates were reminded of the ground-breaking study by keynote speaker, Aaron Mair, the first black president of the Sierra Club.

 

Mair said that study “lit the fuse for environmental change” because it connected the dots between low income populations and environmental hazards.  "This was transformative," he said. "For the first time, a national organization lifted up a data analysis to show how institutional racism was being played out in civil policy. That study asked the question: Why are toxic waste dumps placed in the neighborhoods of people with the least power to fight back? Why do the parks and preserves go to the affluent middle-class neighborhoods where they increase the value of the homes?"

 

I often find that our local churches and church members in Hawaii have little knowledge of our denomination’s groundbreaking “firsts.”  It’s easy to be insular in the islands.  But it’s imperative that we recognize the important ministry that goes on week after week by the committed staff of our National Setting.  Aaron Mair complimented the UCC’s justice work by claiming “I am here because you connected the dots.” 

 

I hope we learn to search for and claim our own interconnection to the ministry of Our Churches Wider Mission.  Together we have a powerful, prophetic impact.

 

- Jayne Ryan Kuroiwa, O‘ahu