Friday, 9 September 2011

Summary of "Black Men in Public Spaces"


Brent Staples, an African American man, has been mistaken for a criminal countless times because of his race. The first time this happened, he scared a young white women when he turned the corner at night, and she ran off, convinced that he was “a mugger, a rapist, or worse.” Brent shares instances of people locking their car doors or crossing the street when he walked by, but he says he can’t blame them, as “young black males are drastically overrepresented among the perpetrators of… violence.” He discusses his childhood in Chester, Pennsylvania where there is “gang warfare, street knifings, and murders” that many of his friends and family have gone to prison or been killed over. He mentions two extreme situations in which he is mistaken for a burglar and tells the story of a journalist mistaken for the killer he was reporting on. Brent Staples makes it clear that these occurrences are continuous and common, and so he has had to make changes to accommodate for these terrified white people in public places by, for example, whistling classic music at night. The point he is trying to make with this article is that Caucasians have some common misconceptions about African Americans, often assuming they are all criminals, even though Brent has clearly illustrated himself as “one of the good boys.”

7 comments:

  1. Very good article..Sad not to get more people responding to this, regarding race...I too have had multiple incidents bieng a black supervisor offshore. I wish we were still divided North and South.So many lives lost....and all.At what cost?? Are things REALLY better?? You have 2 types of people..Those that are racist, and those who are not.Imagine the level of true freedom not to be discriminated ANYMORE..no more racist people to deny you employment opportunities because you dont "fit" with company culture.

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    1. So, do you think the north was not racist the all. Well, guess how was making money from the slavery at north. The banks and they support them economically. Also, if you think Lincoln want to abolish the slavery and make the black people part of the country. Guess, he wants to send all the black people to Liberia and the only reasons he did not, was because it was to expenses. The only good change for black people to not be harass by the whites, was Canada or the Quakers in Massachusetts.

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  2. This is scary indeed, am a legal immigrant with three children two boys and one girl, it was a shock for me when I learned about racism in America and I sometimes wonder what I got my family into by moving to America, yet what better option do I have. It's so hard for me to understand why anybody believes their race is better than another person, s yet science haven't been able to prove that color has to do with how intelligent, smart or stupid you are, circumstances have made a lot of people what they are today, white, black, yellow or whatever color you are.one thing is certain no matter what color you are on the outside we all remain the same on the inside, they haven't done an autopsy on a white man who is white on the inside and vice versa, wish everybody will understand that and not think they are better than others just because of the color of their skin.

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  3. This essay completely fails to correlate the author's race to the affect he has on people in public. At no point in the story does he even confirm the supposed fear, he merely "senses" it, and attributes this to his race, with yet another assumption. In a wonderful disqualification of his own assertion, Staples mentions how he can whistle classical music tunes to ease the minds of those who'd otherwise find him scary. Isn't he still a black man while whistling that Beethoven classic? So how could people's supposed fear be racially motivated if it can be turned off by a cultural music cue? To the unbiased observer, one might conclude the author has witnessed a cultural divide, and not a racial one. Nice try race baiter.

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    1. I agree that the race card isn't in play here. The man walks around in higher crime cities late at night. What kind of reaction should he expect? However, this essay was published in the 80's. Race MAY have been seen as more of an issue at that time, and he seems to put it in that light. I think it's his size, grooming, and attire that sets the tone of how he is percieved. He writes that he got nervous reactions from "black,white, male, or female" in his presence. People in big cities can rely on bad experiences with night time walkers, rather than unfounded prejudices, when sizing up who they should fear and avoid. I think the big point over all is that HE is afraid of them and their misplaced fear and possible reaction to him.

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