Slow violence in public parks in the U.S.: can we escape our troubling past?

Kang Jae Jerry Lee, Mariela Fernandez, David Scott, Myron Floyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies on environmental justice have paid limited attention to procedural injustice in parks. Using the concept of slow violence, this paper interrogates the ideological and philosophical foundations of American public parks in order to unearth enduring structural patterns of procedural injustice. The paper illustrates that community, state, and national parks in the U.S. were founded upon the elitism, eugenics, and racism of affluent and powerful White conservationists and social reformers. To materialize their own interests, the White elite defined, built, and managed public parks by displacing, excluding, and criminalizing the Indigenous, the poor, people of color, and immigrants. As such, many of today’s park injustices, such as inequitable park availability and quality, gentrification, and non-visitation of people of color, originated from the beginning of the public parks in the 19th century and have been sustained ever since. The paper discusses corrective justice strategies to alleviate the enduring slow violence in parks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1202
Number of pages18
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • elitism
  • environmental justice
  • eugenics
  • gentrification
  • Public parks
  • racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies


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