Black men and The White Society

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 24, 2019

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Submitted: October 07, 2019

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Kabera, Baraka A 

9/4/2019 

Black Men and the White Society 

“Where fear and weapons meet – and they often do in urban America – there is always the possibility of death.” Everybody can be judged at some point in life. It only becomes too dangerous when a group of people chooses to judge a certain race. Brent Staples’s essay “Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space” is about a black man versus the white society. Staples is a very nice person with a great heart but people have decided to judge him by his looks. There are so many negative judgements that have been made about him; such as people mistaking him for a mugger, a rapist, et cetera. With his great thinking, he was able to make an order from chaos.  

He decided that in order for society not to judge or view him in a negative way, he must try to look as non-threatening as possibleFirst, when people - mostly white women - see him, they mistake him for a rapist. For example, in the essay “Just Walk . . .”, he makes an outstanding explanation of the situation with his first victim. “As I swung onto the avenue behind her, there seemed to be a discreet, uninflammatory distance between us. Not so. She cast back a worried glance” (Staples, 1). It is clear that this woman was frightened by Staple's appearance. This is very sad; he is actually harmless but people keep on running away from him. It has gone to the extent where he cannot even sleep trying to figure out why people tend to incriminate him. “Suffering a bout of Insomnia, however, I was stalking sleep, not defenseless wayfarers. As a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken – let alone hold one to a person’s throat – I was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed all at once” (Staples 2). 

Next, people see him as a mugger or thief as he explains through his essay. “At dark, shadowy intersections, I could cross in front of a car stopped at a traffic light and elicit the thunkthunkthunk of the driver – black, white, male or female – hammering down the door locks” (Staples 3). As if this is not enough, people don’t often start a conversation with him but instead, try to make sure that everything they have is well protected because they were sure of the fact that have met a criminal. Sadly, Stapels continues to explain most women “. . . seem to have 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” (Staples 5) when they see him. Even when he visits certain buildings, he tries his best not make eye contact because as soon as he does people will assume that he is on a mission to steal and so as the result he leaves the place as soon as possible. “She stood, the dog extended toward me, silent to my questions, her eyes bulging nearly out of her head. I took a cursory look around, nodded, and bade her good night” (Stapels 8). 

Furthermore, he does not blame women who mistake him for a rapist even though he is truly innocent of the judgments made about him. “I understand, of course, that the danger they perceive is not a hallucination. Women are particularly vulnerable to street violence, and young black males are drastically overrepresented among the perpetrators of that violence” (Staples 5). Staples completely understands the reason as to why people do not question to judge him. This is only true to him and there is nothing he can do to spread it to other people so they can find out the truth. Whoever he comes across to, runs away. 

“As a boy, I saw countless tough guys locked away; I have since buried several, too. They were babies, really – a teenage cousin, a brother of twenty-two, a childhood friend in his mid-twenties – all gone down in episodes of bravado played out in the streets” (Staples 7). What he means is that he grew up in a place where crime occurred almost every day but he is not a criminal. He chose to be a good boy because criminal life did not turn out good for his fellows. This is what the people do not understand, they do not fully know him and again there is nothing he can do to inform them. “I chose to perhaps unconsciously, to remain a shadow-timid, but a survivor” (Staples 7). 

“I learned to smother the rage I felt at so often being taken for a criminal. Not to do so would have led to madness” (Staples 10). Obviously, Staples cannot continue to live his life like that. He came up with various ways to look as non-threatening to the white people as he possibly can. Of course, this was not going to work perfectly on everyone, his goal was not to convince everyone but to convince those who were willing to be convinced. “I give a wide berth to nervous people on subway platforms during the wee hours, particularly when I have exchanged business clothes for jeans” (Staples 10). This means that people who dress professionally are trusted by the people and therefore not mistaken for a criminal. “I have been calm and extremely congenial on those days rare occasions when I’ve been pulled over by the police” (Staples 10). When he gets pulled over, he does not let fear or emotions take over, he just calms down and listens to what he’s being told. These were the safest ways he came up with to help resolve his problem with society. 

Staples’ problem is similar to millions of other people – especially black individuals – in the United States who are innocent but still, the society has refused to believe them. This was the main reason why he wrote his essayto educate other people not to let fear take over them because “where fear and weapons meet – and the often do in the urban America – there is always the possibility of death.” 

Page Break 

Works Cited: 

Staples, Brent, “Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space.” Essay 

Date Accessed: September 4, 2019 

 

 


© Copyright 2020 Baraka Kabera. All rights reserved.

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