The revolutionary Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr, once described discrimination as “a hellbound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.” His point being that African Americans face racial discrimination on a daily basis. Brent Staples, being an African American living in America, expresses his view on the subject in his essay “Just Walk on By”, where he conveys the message of how fear is influenced by society's stereotypical and discriminating views of certain groups of people; his point is made clear through his sympathetic persona, descriptive diction, depressing tone, and many analogies. Staples sympathetic persona helps the reader feel and understand the racial problems that he experiences daily.
Racism isn't born, it is taught! This essay "Just walk on by Brent Staples" is written in the mid 70's when racism was at its peak. Racism is not only common today it's been a part of American history. Staples works as a journalist in a predominantly white society. This essay deals with racism, stereotypes, and prejudice.
“Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space” by author Brent Staples, was first published in an American Liberal feminist magazine called Ms. Magazine in 1986. In the article, Staples, an author and editorial writer for the New York Times, explains how he’s been discriminated throughout his life for the way he looks and the color of his skin. He first points out that at times he could tell that people were threatened, or frightened of him, particularly women, because of his appearance. He states that “It was in the echo of that terrified woman’s footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I’d come into-the ability to alter public space in ugly ways” (Staples 1). Staples revels that even when he walked down the street, pedestrians
Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space by Brent Staples discusses the relevant issues of racial bias and how prejudice against people of color has embedded minds, as it demonstrates the importance of being aware of how we conceive others. Staples uses a contrasting element of race by introducing a white female and a black male. He uses his experiences and other people of colour to display the struggles of racism they face everyday. Staples reveals how people are prejudice against appearance, despite the importance of individuality of people and being impartial regardless of someone 's skin or looks. The story begins with Staples describing his first experience frightening a white women due to the colour of his skin.
In his essay, “Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space”, Brent Staples uses the rhetorical strategies of anecdote and diction in order to convey his message that due to racial discrimination black people (mainly men) have to change the way they naturally conduct themselves in public for they run the risk of something terrible happening to them. Staples uses anecdotes to bring in the personal side of the message to the audience. Staples creates a persona of innocence and almost alienation in his writing. Anecdotes such as his both instances in which he accidently scared women on walks and the time in which he and another reporter were mistaken for murder suspects or robbers are used to show real life proof of his message.
In his essay “Black Men and Public Spaces,” Brent Staples explains that people often find him intimidating because he is tall and black. Staples shares his account of a number of personal encounters, arguing that in each situation, he was misinterpreted as being dangerous because of his daunting physical appearance. Staples asserts that as a result of this misinterpretation, he was continually mistreated. Staples begins his article by describing the events leading up to his life-changing realization that he has inherited “the ability to alter public space in ugly ways (183).” When he was twenty-two years old, Staples found himself one evening, walking behind a well-dressed white woman on a deserted street in a rather wealthy neighborhood.
He is telling a story starting from the beginning and moving towards events that happen later. Staples first talks about his “first victim” and moves along his timeline (Staples 238). Staples then talks about what his first year was like outside of his hometown and states that it was filled with people who were afraid of him (Staples 239). He then talks about him moving to New York after his time in Chicago (Staples 239). he writes about his experience in New York, and even there he has people who are afraid of him (Staples 240).
Staples uses imagery, so the reader can picture it when reading his work, and to help create a sort of dark and lonely tone. The character uses several personal experiences which use a large amount of imagery. This is better shown when staples writes “ As a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken- let alone hold it to a person’s throat……”(542), The character feels as though he is being judged for being a certain color when really he is afraid himself of getting hurt; he is also very humble and shy because he is afraid to even harm something that isn’t alive. When being treated as guilty and wrong, shame will follow; the character feels shameful that the lady is afraid of him when he has done nothing wrong.
As he grew up, he experienced many more experiences such as the one he had that night in Chicago. Staples defends himself to the reader, telling them of how harmless he truly is. Although, Staples can understand why these women could be intimidated, especially in such a high poverty neighborhood. Staples looks past the discrimination, until it comes to the point where he becomes frightful. Staples is terrified of the gun violence and worried that if he makes a wrong move his life could be over.
By using such a unique story with eye-catching phrases as the introduction of his article, Staples evokes the emotion of fear and unsettledness that soon proceeds to a feeling of relief, yet in a way that 's melancholic.
To achieve his objective, Staples further appeals to the audience by establishing a likable and understanding persona by concession and rebuttal, as well as light humor to make himself more charming. For example, Staples admits that for women, “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”. However, he wastes no time to assure that these problems don’t make up for the alienation black men feel always being treated as suspects (543).
In their defense, Staples asserts that he could not blame them since young black male had occasionally been involved in violence. Staples continues to give more examples of extreme situations in which he found himself in trouble for being mistaken
In the reading Just Walk on By by Brent Staples, the topic of racial stereotypes surfaces from the man who gets racially profiled quite often as he explains his personal experiences. The author bluntly tries to pass the message that racially judging people is wrong and explaining how it makes the other party ,african americans, feel. When analyzing Staples’ message his rhetorical strategies play a huge role into how his message is perceived. He uses influential diction allowing each word to give an impact unmatched by any white man who tried to convey a black man’s thought process. Staples also appeals to his credibility with the obvious observation that he is a black man talking about his real life experiences.
Stereotypes have the power to label someone and rob them of all their hard work or strike fear into others. One such stereotype is that of black men being more dangerous;yet, one black writer voices his opinion on such a stereotype. In the essay “Just Walk On By” by Brent Staples, Staples describes his experience of being a large black man and how it affects the people around him. From people locking their doors to pedestrians crossing the street to avoid a confrontation, people seem to be afraid of Staples just from a glance. Yet Staples does nothing to cause this fear, rather his stereotype is to blame.