Examining privilege and power in US urban parks and open space during the double crises of antiblack racism and COVID-19

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Nov 24, 2020
Fushcia-Ann Hoover and Theodore C. Lim



In this perspective, we argue that creating the positive outcomes socio-ecological researchers and practitioners seek for urban areas requires acknowledging and addressing the interactions of race and systemic racism in parks, open and green spaces. Racial experiences are inseparable from physical landscapes and the processes of designing, managing, or studying them. From COVID-19 to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests, the events of 2020 in the United States underscore how considerations of social justice must extend beyond the conventional distributional focus of environmental justice. It must incorporate an understanding of how the built environment is racialized spatially, but not always readily quantified through the proximity-based measurements frequently used in research and practice. The perspective is organized in three main parts. The first part presents a series of vignettes to frame the ways cities and individuals participate, respond, and interact under COVID-19 with racial segregation as the backdrop. The second part suggests a stepwise approach to building an understanding of racial inequities in socio-ecological systems (SES) research and practice including four entry points: (1) racialized spatial distribution of hazards and amenities, (2) racialized qualities of space, (3) racialized people in space, and (4) racialized creation of space. Finally, the third part proposes actions the SES community can take to enhance our commitment to community recovery, improvement, and thrivability. This perspective cautions practitioners and researchers against opportunistic or quick-fix solutions, and instead challenges our colleagues to be inclusive of disenfranchised voices in shaping socio-ecological goals, now more than ever. The goal of this perspective is to spark engagement with power and privilege in parks and open space using the example of COVID-19 and race in the US.

Read the article in Socio-Ecological Practice Research.

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