Summary – Black Men and Public Spaces

Summary – Black Men and Public Spaces


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Summary – Black Men and Public Spaces

The author, Brent Staples has been mistaken for a criminal many times due to his identity as an African-American. During his first to be identified as being a criminal is when he scared a young white woman as he turned a corner at night and the woman ran off being convinced that Staples was ‘a mugger, a rapist, or worse.’ The author shares his experiences of individuals locking their car doors when he happened to be walking nearby. Staples says that he can’t blame them as the ‘Young black males are drastically overrepresented among the perpetrators of that violence’ (Staples 384) In this article, Staples discuss his childhood in Chester, Pennsylvania where there is ‘gang warfare, street knifings, and murders’ that most of his friends and family have either gone to prison or got killed over. To extend the matter further, Staples provides two extreme situations in which he was mistaken for a thief and also tells about the narrative of a journalist who was mistaken for a murderer he was reporting on. Brent makes it clear that the occurrences are common and continuous. And therefore, he was made to make adjustments to accommodate for the terrified white people in public places such as he had to whistle classical music at night. Staples wants to make a note from the article that the whites have some common misconceptions about African Americans of assuming that they are all criminals even despite Staples illustrating himself as a good person.

Individual Identity

Individual identity is one of the major themes that can be identified from the articles listed. Personal identity refers to what distinguishes a person from the rest of the individuals and thereby making them unique in their selves. Obtaining information from a single source may be dangerous as they may contain the wrong information about a person or a whole group and therefore lead to individuals being stereotypical. Although a person may be confined to a particular group of individuals who are attributed to having the undesired behavior, each person is different, and they need to be treated differently before making conclusions.

From the article, ‘The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a girl named Maria’ by the author Judith Ortiz Cofer is one of those articles that stipulate the aspect of individual identity as observed from the characters. In the article, Judith expresses her views of the stereotypes to which she along with the other women from the Latin and Hispanic descent were related to and had to fight against them for many years. The story begins with the relation of her experience when a drunk pub patron began to sing ‘Maria’ from the ‘Westside Story’ to her while she was traveling from Oxford to London (Cofer). Being a Latin American woman, Cofer shares her opinion concerning the stereotypes to which have occurred throughout her life. She reflects on her childhood and recognizes the difference in the manner individuals interact with her and the other non-Latino females. Cofer relates her cultural experiences to being an island especially when they are asked to dress for a career day at school where she is faced with a challenge of deciding the appropriate wear for the occasion. During this event, Cofer expresses how the clothing could promote the cultural chasm to which she has been faced together with the rest of the Latino women. Cofer is completely out of choices as she has only a few role models who are not Latino females and therefore she would have to wear what the Latino girls used to stand out for wearing. From this article, Cofer is faced with an individual problem that arises from the mode of wear to which her culture has subjected them to and besides, she has run out of choices as she has few models who are non-Latinos. Being an individual, she is opposed of how she and other Latino women are treated regarding the rest of the non-Latino women and therefore an aspect of individual identity can be identified.

From the article ‘Blackmen and Space’ by Brent Staples, it is undeniable that individual identity is portrayed. The article is based on the stereotypes of the black men and how the white people feared them. In the introduction of the article, we find Staples complaining about how he has continuously been mistaken for a thug. Staples being an African American was treated in the same way as the rest of the African Americans as they were associated with bad behaviors such as rape, robbery and any other worse kind of things. The issue of being a robber is personal and not every individual can be related to being one just because they come from the same background. Staples depicts himself as being a good man and that he had never committed any crime, but whenever he went, he was faced with the same problems of rejection. Brent Staples points out in some instances when he was passing by, and a young woman thought that he was a rapist forcing herself to run away. The perceptions from the whites that every African American is a bad person and is associated with bad things are termed to be untrue by Staples as he terms himself to be a good guy with no bad intentions. For him to show that he is a good person, he was forced to whistle classical tunes to identify himself from the bad people. It is evident that the aspect of trying to prove of him being a better person is an aspect of individual identity.

‘The Danger of a Single Story’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is another article that relates to individual identity as the story is based on stereotypes regarding the people of African and the nature of their survival (Adichie). For example, the author narrates how she first moved into her dorm and met her roommate and told her that she is from Africa. The roommate automatically assumed that she didn’t speak English or grew up in poverty because that is how her roommate perceive Africa as she had read books or seen on the TV. The perception by her roommate that Africans can’t speak English but only communicate with their native language is stereotypical as a majority of the people who tend to think about this have never been into Africa and depends on what other sources provide to them feeding them with lies. Apart from speaking in English, the African continent is full of resources, and most of the countries are rich. Besides, most of the individuals from the African continent are rich and therefore not all the people are poor. Therefore, the concept of the author’s roommate generalizing the Africans on false ideas can be termed as stereotypical and individualistic as the author communicated in English implying that such thoughts are not true and are individualistic.

Individualistic concepts have significantly been used in the articles above to depict how people tend to believe in mere ideas to which are not an accurate reflection on every individual. The issue of being stereotypical comes as a result of hate of a single person due to something that people may not have gone into consensus and therefore generalizing all the people from that ethnic background. For example, in all the three articles, we find the specific individuals; Cofer, Staples, and Chimamanda being subjects of individual identity. Each one of them tries to pull out of the generalization behavior implying that every person is unique and deserves to be treated differently from the others and not subjecting them to the same treatment. The reason is that all the stereotypical ideas are as a result of singled information about a group of people which may not be accurate as there are other different individuals from what people perceive.

Work Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The danger of a single story.” (2009).

Cofer, Judith Ortiz. The myth of the Latin woman: I just met a girl named Maria. na, 2001.

Staples, Brent. “Black men and public space.” Life studies (1992): 2-32.