Race and Gender vs. Stereotypical Society
In Brent Staples "Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space," he expresses the difficulties African Americans face in society. His essay is driven by emotion and resentment. He speaks on the role prejudice plays in his life and the world around him. Staples explains how throughout his life, others have discriminated against him because he is a tall, black man who works as a journalist in a predominantly white field. Clearly, anger fuels Staples’ writing, yet he maintained a calmness throughout the essay and did not point fingers. As he explains, he first realized how much his appearance frightened others, particularly a white woman, when he used to take late night walks as a graduate student. Staples conveys where he was negatively stereotyped as “a mugger, a rapist, or worse” (Staples, 422). It is clear that public space is able to be altered through racial stereotypes. It not only influenced lives of people like Staples, but infringed onto the “victims” of Staples and others like him. His lifelong exposure to this matter taught him to take precaution in the people he encounters and the places he visits. Staples explains how stereotypes alter public space throughout the essay through narratives of incidents in his life. He explains one encounter with a young white woman, “on a deserted street, in an impoverished section of Chicago” (Staples, 421). She glances back at him and disappears off into the dark. Her obvious fear of him, even though she has no logical personal reason to fear him, makes him realize that he has “the ability to alter public space in ugly ways” (Staples, 422). Staples understands her thoughts of him being a mugger, a rapist, or even a murderer; but “her flight” made him feel “like an accomplice tyranny” (Staples, 422). It also made him feel like he was “indistinguishable from the muggers,” and laid on him and “unnerving gulf between nighttime pedestrians - particularly...
Cited: Staples, Brent. ”Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space.” 75
Arguments an Anthology. Ed. Alan Ainsworth. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2008.
White Man’s Burden. Dir. Desmond Nakano. Perf. John Travolta.1995. DVD.
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