Tyrone a young black man, born and raised in the South Bronx, wanted nothing but the best to succeed for his future. A straight A student in college. Never once in trouble with the law, was wrongfully accused of murder. Tyrone was minding his business walking to his local bodega, when this innocent lady was robbed and stabbed to death right in front of him. The black man who committed the crime fled the scene. Tyrone was there when this all happened. The police arrived to the scene right away to question all the witnesses; they all accused Tyrone because he was the only black man in the area. Tyrone an innocent black man had experienced what “Black Men and Public Space” deal with almost every day.
Brent Staple’s essay, “Black Men and Public Space” discloses the racial profiling and ignorance he experiences out in public spaces from others as a young black man into his older age. Staples’ shares with his readers some of his personal encounters when he was stereotyped by his physical appearance. Staples’ also illustrates his inner struggle of acceptance of not being feared no more. In today’s society many black men have given a bad reputation for other black men that do not deserve the treatment they receive as if they were criminals. As many good black men there are, who prove that not all black men are criminals, it will not stop people from being stereotypical. As Brent Staples stated, “Black men trade tales like this all the time”.
As common stereotyping may be, it can make someone feel alienated. To know your physical appearance can cause such fear, when you know you can’t even hurt a mouse. Living in today’s society, is one wrong to stereotype a person if that person looks suspicious and makes you feel unsafe? Should one feel inferior because they’re being stereotyped?
Brent Staples chose to use his own personal experiences as a black man to explain how he is stereotyped by society. He recalls the very first time he was stereotyped, was by a young white woman which he refers to her as his first victim. They were walking in a deserted street when he noticed that she continued to glance back at him all worried, and after a few more glances she began to run in earnest. Staples assumed that the woman was frighten because of his skin color, but I’m sure it wasn’t all do to his complexion. He goes on to tell his readers how people would cross the street just so they would not have to walk next to him.
I must admit, I myself can be stereotypical. But am I wrong for it? Living in New York City you hear quite often on the news woman being raped, mugged, and murdered. I’m not racist but I have to take my precautions to stay safe. If I see a black man that falls in the criteria of a criminal or thug walking to close to me or in my direction, I do panic and walk as fast as I can to get away. My grandmother was once robbed and assaulted by a black man in Washington Heights, so it’s hard for me not to stereotype a black man when someone so dear to me was hurt by one.
Staples demonstrates his struggle for acceptances from people whom are scared of him. He goes on to say that he now takes precautions to avoid situations he has experienced. He now whistles melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi when he takes walks at night because no one will assume a mugger knows classical music. Instead of people crossing to the other side of the street, he’ll keep his distance from those that may seem skittish of him. It seems that he does all this just to fit in to society. None of this will change the way black men are stereotyped.
In high school, I had a friend who was a black male; it seemed to me he was always seeking attention. He made it his priority to make sure he was liked and accepted by everyone. I was always curious to why. Until one day I knew exactly why. In his previous school in North Carolina, he was accused of assaulting a girl because he was black. The school he attended was mostly whites and very racist so he did not have too many friends. This girl was always giving him a hard time, always making ignorant comments towards him. She felt if she were to make an allegation about him she would get rid of him and he would not be able to attend the school. To make a long story short, it was proven that her allegation was not true. He was so traumatized that his family sent him to live in NYC. He never wanted to experience anything like that ever again, that he made sure he received acceptance from everyone.
Black men and public space will continue to experience these situations. We cannot change the way people think and judge. Unfortunately the majority of black men, who are criminals, will continue to give a bad reputation for those that are not. We live in a world where we have to be in high alert to maintain unharmed. There’s no reason for anyone to feel the obligation or need to act a certain way so those that are judging them can feel a sense of security, the way Brent Staples did. As long as you know you’re not that type of person, you cannot let someone’s judgment stop you from succeeding and proving that you are not a statistic.