The first wave of environmental justice literature tended to define environmental racism as the disparate siting of toxic waste facilities in low-income areas and communities of colour. More recently, environmental justice scholars have turned to a critical environmental justice framework to explore questions of spatial equity in relation to movements like Black Lives Matter. It is increasingly clear that the state, the built environment, economic development, and race converge in communities who face increased surveillance, divestment, and gentrification. Using Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago as a case study, I draw on qualitative and historical methods to interrogate dominant narratives surrounding policing in urban environments. This paper highlights how Black geographies, as an analytic, highlight the intersection of police brutality and the built environment in Hyde Park. Legacies of urban renewal, now framed as neighbourhood revitalisation, and narratives around criminality and race all influence community police relations in the area. As the University of Chicago expands, so does its police force, and so do conflicts over who can use public spaces and how these spaces are used. I argue that institutions like the University of Chicago rely on the police to racially manage and expand their built environment. I also look to Black Lives Matter as a way to understand police brutality as enmeshed with toxic ecologies. This pairing of activism, ecology and policing allows a more nuanced analysis of the racialised underpinnings of the built environment.
Recipient of the 2018 Clyde Woods Black Geographies Specialty Group Graduate Student Paper Award.