The Impact of Environmental Justice on Black Fatherhood

Jun 15, 2020 | BM4F Spotlights, Uncategorized, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

The Godfather, happens to be one of my favorite movies, due to its exemplary display of family power, organization and leadership. My favorite scene is the meeting of families after Sonny’s tragic death. The purpose of this meeting was to end a war between two families that lost their sons. Interestingly, the war was about drugs. One family wanted to get into the drug business because of the profit, the other family didn’t want in the business due to the negative community impact. However, to end the war there had to be a compromise. The compromise was for both families to get into the drug business with the following stipulations. The drugs can’t be sold around their community schools or neighborhoods, however the black schools and neighborhoods were fair game. The first time I saw the scene, I bucked my chest up and thought to myself If I was there “ain’t no way in hell that would fly.” Then it hit me. The absence of the organized, wealthy black family at the table, where decisions are made, will have a long-term negative generational impact.  

What is Environmental justice?

So, what is environmental Justice. Environmental Justice is the inclusion of black people contributing to policy making and its implementation. In addition to the enforcement of laws, regulations and policies.

What is Black Fatherhood?

In order to define these complex nouns, we must separately define fatherhood and black fathers. I define fatherhood as a never-ending responsibility to raise, uplift and encourage one’s offspring to be successful in this world through hard work, love for all mankind and self-respect. Secondly, as I define black fathers, I recognize that black fathers are just as different as their social and fraternal imagery and experiences.  Black fathers have to dispel the embedded societal imagery that black fathers are not involved in their children’s lives due to their absence in the house. Black Fathers find themselves systematically isolated, economically enslaved and manipulated in their understanding of the African concept of family opposed to the tradition of the Western concept of family. Essentially a space where Black men are consistently seeking truth and light about who they are.

Understanding these points, I define black fatherhood as the responsibility of equipping your offspring with the tools to combat and move around systematic barriers, teach self -identity/self-respect, the importance of Black culture/their role and to have a heart for all mankind– in addition to protecting them from the world’s culturally inherited threats on Black people’s health and physical harm.

What is a Green Economy?

A Green Economy is a business development model that promotes sustainability by advancing the economy with environmental and social well-being in mind.

Environmental Justice Issue

Now that we got the formalities out of the way we can discuss the impact of environmental justice on Black fatherhood–specifically lead prevention, the green economy, and their correlation to Black fatherhood as previously defined.

Just as the delegates the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24-27, 1991, in Washington DC discussed the widespread of environmental poisoning, oppression and the devastation communities of color where experiencing with water, air and land contamination being contributing factors to cancer, birth defects, and miscarriages–moving forward almost 30 years, today lead poisoning is negatively impacting children of color due to race, poverty and non-representation. The CDC reports that exposure to lead can cause serious harm to a child’s health: brain damage, nervous system damage, delayed growth/development, learning behaviors, and speech/hearing problems. One of the most prominent sources of lead poisoning can be traced to lead paint in the home along with drinking water derived from old pipes. Cheap, imported toys are also a culprit in childhood lead exposure (often found in Dollar Stores and other discount markets).

If children are consuming contaminated water at home and at school, with the said health issues how can a kid control their behaviors and develop critical cognitive skills? Modern research has proven that children who underperform academically have a greater risk of undesirable experiences with the criminal justice system beginning in the juvenile justice system. Juvenile detention centers are where young Black Boys are introduced to the racist criminal justice system where they are often preyed upon in their innocence causing generational struggles impeding on the goals of Black Fatherhood.

In conclusion environmental justice impacts Black fatherhood by forcing Black fathers to find themselves seated at the table of environmental justice working to eliminate disparities, incorporate prevention tools, systemically implement a green economy within their professional network and funding the redevelopment of black neighborhoods.


J. Whitlow is the Founder and Creative Director of Privileged Memphis–We Influence Culture, Evolve it Economically, Philanthropically and Socially. We Work. We Give. We Party. BePrivileged. Follow Privileged Memphis on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. J. Whitlow is also a member of the 2019-20 Black Millennials 4 Flint Lead Prevention Ambassador Leadership Program.

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