It shall be said,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way,
remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”
Isaiah 57:14 NRSV
November 15, 2021, Washington, DC – The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) praises the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which has been signed into law by President Joseph Biden today.
Since 2018, the NCC’s priority has been the A.C.T. Now to End Racism initiative. We have called our partners to Awaken to the many manifestations of racism, to Confront the need for change, and to work to Transform church and society into a reflection of the inclusive and equitable reign of God.
The horrific damage from 400 years of slavery has been embedded in U.S. laws and practices. We witness this damage when polluted air renders children of color unable to breathe because of asthma. We witness this damage when water infects poor communities with deadly levels of lead and other toxic substances. We witness this damage when statistics analyzing institutions and systems in our society prove disparities exist for people of color.
We commend the White House for acknowledging that Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native communities are more likely to be burdened by pollution and for detailing these and other disparities in the Fact Sheet on Advancing Economic and Public Health Opportunities for Communities of Color.
The NCC believes that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a start toward repairing some of the damage that continues to inflict harm on people of color. Although the funding level in this legislation does not meet the full needs to reverse all the many wrongs, its investments are positioned to advance equity and bring racial justice to our communities in certain ways:
- With families of color at the highest risk for lead exposure at home and in schools and knowing that higher exposure can negatively affect academic performance and lead to cardiovascular disease, the NCC applauds the Act’s investment in clean drinking water by replacing all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines.
- As air pollution is linked to health problems including asthma among students who miss school particularly in communities of color and Tribal communities, and death from asthma-related illnesses for Black people at almost three times that of their white counterparts, the NCC recognizes that the Act will begin to alleviate pollution and improve health by delivering thousands of electric school buses and thousands of zero emission transit vehicles, while investing in clean energy transmission.
- With 26% of Black Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans living within 3 miles of a Superfund site, the NCC is pleased to know that Brownfield and Superfund sites will be remediated for improved health and well-being.
- Since people of color and tribal members are more likely to live in areas with flooding and climate change-related weather, the NCC welcomes the Act’s investments that will help communities build resilience to these threats through infrastructure upgrades.
- Acknowledging that Black families are 9% less likely to have high-speed internet than their white peers, Latino Americans are 15% less likely, and about 35% of individuals living on Tribal lands lack access to broadband service, the NCC embraces the Act’s goal of providing every American with access to reliable high-speed internet.
- As racial injustices were evident when significant portions of the interstate highway system were built through Black neighborhoods and highway construction projects too often divided and demolished Black communities, the NCC applauds the Act for creating the first-ever program to reconnect communities divided by these transportation projects. We look forward to the reconstruction of street grids and parks in these neighborhoods.
“For decades the US has not invested in its infrastructure, and all across the country we see the results of this lack of foresight,” commented Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Bishop of the 5th Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) and Chair of the NCC Governing Board. “So many years of disregard for the crumbling structures that surround us cannot be erased with just one funding bill, but the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a much-needed step in the right direction. We commend all the elected leaders who worked together to meet these basic needs of the people. We look forward to future legislation that will continue to improve the quality of life for Americans.”
We pray that the benefits of this Act are realized as quickly as possible so that the suffering can be alleviated. May all who work on the infrastructure projects be blessed with the competence and resilience necessary to achieve such worthy goals.