A Critical Analysis Of Brent Staples’ Essay Black Men And Public Space
For many African Americans, stereotyping is a significant problem in the community. In the brief essay written by Brent Staples, entitled Black Men and Public Space, it displays the distressing stereotypes that are placed on African American men, while suggesting a temporary solution for this problem. He begins by sharing various experiences of how people are incorrectly perceiving him – an African American man – on the streets, mistaking him for a criminal. These stereotypes occur so frequently that he now sees this as a common thing. He emphasizes these experiences to show his readers how alarming these situations have become. Lastly, he concludes by telling his readers how he has discovered a temporary solution that has forced him to adjust to this environment in hopes to solve this problem, even when he considers himself as “one of the good boys.” This essay is convincing and very successful in raising awareness of this troubling phenomenon because of the specific audience targeted, real-life examples, effective structure, and interesting language used.
The specific audience targeted is the first element that makes this essay highly successful in its purpose. First, let’s discuss and describe the audience that is being targeted. The first clue we get of this audience comes from the writer’s publishing selection. Brent Staples published this essay in 1986 on an American Liberal Feminist magazine called “Ms.” Additionally, as he develops his essay, most of the experiences he shares are actually women being involved in creating and applying stereotypes upon him. Also, in the fifth paragraph, he makes a statement that is clearly aimed toward women, “After dark, on the warrenlike streets of Brooklyn where I live, I often see women who fear the worst of me.” From this, we can consider that he’s appealing to a feminine audience which are ultimately the most affected by this essay. He targets this audience, because he believes that they’re the ones with the most involvement of this matter. But, how does this contribute in making this essay successful? Well, it helps to serve the primary purpose of this essay. Since stereotyping is very alarming and sometimes dangerous for African American men, the writer targets the audience that he believes to have the most involvement in hopes to reduce the stereotyping cases.
Similarly, the abundance of examples given are also key factors for this successful essay. Throughout it, the writer provides various personal experiences of how stereotyping has taken a toll on him. But, how does this help into making this essay successful? In his first example in paragraph one, he meticulously describes his experience. He shares with us his first encounter with his “first victim.” He meets this person on an empty street in Hyde Park, Chicago. This person is a young, white, well-dressed woman who ends up making a run for her life after determining she was in danger. Was she really in danger though? Not at all. Just from this piece of evidence alone, we can determine the writer’s main purpose – which is to show its readers how alarming these stereotypes can be. Alongside it, the examples that follow really strengthens his message, and it gives us the troubling reality that African American men have to go through daily. This reality has become so troubling that they’re having to adjust their way of living in order to avoid this from happening. Additionally, it provides a very detailed and descriptive scenario which creates a very vivid image for the reader. This serves to be very effective as it makes it easier for the reader to connect and be aware of his main purpose. The effective evidence provided, combined with a specific target audience, really helps this essay achieve its substantive purpose.
The third component that is very valuable for the success of this essay comes from the effective method and structure utilized. One of the things that stands out the most, is the main modes of development used for this essay. From the start, the writer begins exemplifying each point he’s trying to bring across. As we already discussed, these examples were suitable and relatable to its purpose. However, exemplification isn’t the only mode of development that the writer utilizes. We can assess that these examples are narratively written, which is very notable. He also applies very useful transitions after each example, as it provides its readers with his own intake and opinions on how he’s trying to prevent these stereotype scenarios. He keeps this steady and organized pattern throughout the essay. This helps in making it not sound like a list, as it contains many examples. This pattern and order of the essay ends up to be very helpful in the effectiveness of the essay.
The final factor that makes up this essay is the language used by the writer. Language does not only include tone, but it also incorporates word choice and figures of speech. So, what tone is primarily being used in this essay? The predominant one is irony. As we clearly see, the writer is not dangerous whatsoever. It is even stated in the brief background of Mr. Staples, that he’s an educated man. At the start of the essay and throughout it, he’s mentioning how everyone is perceiving him as a criminal. The ironic thing is the fact that he’s actually the victim of the stereotypes. While a lot of women are mistaking him for an evil person, they’re actually victimizing him simply because of his race, and it includes a very troubling effect on him. It was remarkable the way he presents this essay. His word choice was mainly a part of that, which also contributed to set the tone for it. Using words like “victim” – in the opening experience – and constantly describing how he is seen as an evil person, really set an alarming tone for the rest of the essay. He also included a very clear metaphor throughout. He continuously compared himself to a violent and troubling criminal despite being a good, educated person. This metaphor shows us how much people judge each other incorrectly based on their race and appearance, rather from what they really are. The ironic and distressing tone utilized in this essay, greatly helped the writer to achieve a level of awareness for this afflicting issue.
Following my analysis on this essay, one main question raises to my attention. Is the writer being bias in his opinions? Obviously, he provides more than enough proof – via personal experiences – to express all the negative emotions and actions in association with being a recipient of racial stereotyping. In paragraph five, however, he makes a very interesting statement. “I understand, of course, that the danger they perceive is not a hallucination.” In this statement, he declares to his readers that he comprehends that women may have an understandable reason to stereotype black men, as they’re the most susceptible to street violence. However, he still feels that this shouldn’t be acceptable and it has become very damaging for these recipients.
After carefully analyzing this literary piece, I believe that this essay is very successful. All the elements mentioned contributed to fulfill the primary purpose of the writer. Ultimately, this message was highly convincing and effective in understanding the negative effects of stereotypes thanks to its target audience, unbiased opinions, consistent structure, and great use of language.
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For many African Americans, stereotyping is a significant problem in the community. In the brief essay written by Brent Staples, entitled Black Men and Public Space, it displays the distressing […]