Just Walk On By: A Black Man Ponders His Power To Alter Public Space Essay, Research Paper
?Just Walk On By: A Black Man Ponders His Power To Alter Public Space?
Stereotypes affect different individuals regardless race, religion, sex, and creed.
In ?Just Walk On By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space,? Brent Staples demonstrates how a stereotype on race and sex can intervene with one another. Each point, whether a narrative or remark, can have positive and negative outcomes on the audience Staples is trying to enlighten. His thesis, the ability to alter public space through racial stereotypes, affected him as well as many other persons of his stature and skin color. It not only influenced lives of people like Staples, but infringed onto the ?victims? of Staples and others like him.
Staples explains his thesis throughout the essay through narratives of incidents in his life. He explains one encounter with a young white women, ?on a deserted street, in an impoverished section of Chicago? (556). She glances back at him and disappears off into the dark. In paragraph two, 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? (556). It also made him feel like he was ?indistinguishable from the muggers,? and laid on him and ?unnerving gulf between nighttime pedestrians?particularly women? and himself (556). This confrontation not only shows how a stereotype affected the thoughts of a female walking at night, but how it negatively touched a black male. Staples gives example after example showing a bigoted label he obtains due to his race and sex. Not only females, but males of the same race show a sign of uneasiness and discomfort when confronted by black males in insecure and dangerous areas. In his essay he mentions Norman Podhoretz, the writer of, ?My Negro Problem?And Ours.? Podhoretz recalls in his essay that he grew up in terror of black males, and that ?he cannot constrain his nervousness when he meets black men on certain streets? (557). If a black man is unable to feel comfortable on a desolate street, how is a young female able to feel at ease on the same streets at night? Staples also expounds to the reader the magnitude of his thesis through his familiarity ?with the language of fear? (556). He vividly explains, ?At dark, shadowy intersections in Chicago, I could cross in front of a car stopped at a traffic light and elicit the thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk of the driver?black, white, male, or female?hammering down the door locks? (556). Through this statement, Staples clearly shows one side of his audience, females, the negative outcome this stereotype gives. No one wants to be able to sense fear against themselves walking down the street.
Another time when Staples realizes his ability to alter public space was when he describes how he was mistaken as a burglar. As he entered a jewelry store, on assignment for a local paper, the owner ?excused herself and returned with an enormous red Doberman pinscher? (558). Staples looked around and left. Here he isn?t only able to show his thesis one more time but to show the intensity of his ability to alter public space. This did not occur in a dark barren ally but in a well lit jewelry store.
Staples purpose in his essay isn?t only to elucidate his reader about the thesis but to confront his double audience, black males and females in general. He states, ?Women are particularly vulnerable to street violence, and young black males are drastically over represented among the perpetrators of that violence. Yet the truths are no solace against the kind of alienation that comes of ever being the suspect? (557). Staples wants to show his dual audience the effects on one another. Black males need to understand that there will always be stereotypes against them, and need to take drastic measures to make females feel more secure out in public. Staples himself began to take precautions to make himself ?less threatening? (558). He lists certain methods of acquiring such precautions such as moving about with care, ?particularly late in the evening,? and giving himself a ?wide berth to nervous people on subway platforms during the wee hours? (558). Doing such acts will not only make females feel more comfortable but also make the black male feel less of a ?criminal? or ?an accomplice in tyranny? (556).
Throughout the beginning of the essay, the reader can easily notice Staples? offended and annoyed tone through his despondent narratives and forthright comments. He mentions the ?hunch posture,? noted by Podhoretz described as a ?quick-hunch posture for broken-field maneuvering? (557). Staples often witnessed this posture ?from women after dark on the warrenlike streets of Brooklyn? (557). He declares, ?The seem to set their faces on neutral and, with their purse straps strung across their chests bandolier style, they forge ahead as though bracing themselves against being tackled? (557). This act done by women is understood by Staples but undoubtedly irritated him. He contemplates in his essay indirectly why women can?t understand his feelings and how such a stereotype can mentally have a negative bearing on him. Though towards the end of his essay, he fully comprehends women reactions to the stereotype against him and others like himself. Here the reader will notice the shift, from irritant to an understandable tone. At length, Staples accepts the stereotype against him, and hopes to acquaint with his dual audience the positive and negative impacts of a black mans ability to alter public space.
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