The Ability to Alter Public Space

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07 JUNE 2011

The ability to “alter public space” can often be a negative reaction by society guided by fear and prejudice as depicted by Brent Staples’ in his essay “Just Walk On By”. But can one’s appearance “alter public space” in a positive manner? Because of his appearance as a young, burly, six-foot-two black man with a beard and billowing hair, Staples is perceived by others to be violent or a criminal. Staples could use his appearance as a positive influence. Examples of this could include safety and security; coming from a violent background, Staples has broken the stereotype by not succumbing to violence, therefore he may influence others that violence need not be the product of violent surroundings. In my experience, I have known people to have a very positive impact on society regardless of appearance and stereotypes. One such example is Darrell, whose appearance benefits him in his career in law enforcement, or my friend RJ, who came from a poor background and now helps society to battle drug addiction. Staples states the general stereotype society places on an individual and the negative impact on that society but this need not be the case.

One argument of safety and security might be seen in the opening paragraph whereby Staples encounters a woman who, because of fear and prejudice based solely on his appearance, instantly assumes he is a criminal to be avoided. Staples might offer to escort the woman and help her to arrive safely at her destination. Once she finds that he is perhaps a kind and helpful person, he could then be seen as her protector from that element that occasionally came into the neighborhood from the ghetto. Because of his appearance, she would be made to feel safe and secure; any outsiders would likely not want to approach her with Staples by her side. This could also dissuade the woman’s perception of Staples being violent or a criminal. Staples could even become perhaps a...
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