Black Men and Public Space


What It’s Like To Be A Black Man In A Public Space: Analysis Of Brent Staples’ Article

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

For over a thousand years, Race has and still is a topic that is associated with different emotions, views and thoughts. From the beginning of time, African Americans have always been judged and beaten simply because of the color of their skin or where they came from. Brent Staples himself went through the hardship of being judged due to his race, however since he’s a writer he was able to describe the stereotyping along with his article “Black Men and Public Space” which utilizes rhetorical uses that use appeals of his experiences as a black man in public spaces. In the article, Staples uses many excellent examples of racism and how it has made progress throughout the years, however remains present these days. He discusses how African Americans during that time were seen as monsters just for walking at night even when they were highly qualified with jobs and achieved their life goals. He uses many examples of how him and other African Americans were profiled and how the female ran off after seeing Staples during the nighttime. All this reveals that the White American population are empty headed but also how they judged the African Americans just because of the color of their skin and where they came from.

Brent Staples was born on September 13th 1951, in Chester, Pennsylvania. He grew up poor but managed to work hard and became a Psychologist, Journalist and Author. He taught Psychology classes in Chicago and moved to New York to become an editor at the New York Times. As a black man himself, Staples witnessed incidents of racial discrimination which led him to write “Black People in Public Spaces”. He gives examples to show how racism is still alive till this day despite the progress that has been made. The goal Staples was trying to get across was to expose the discrimination so that the public can stop this from continuing in society. Many rhetorical devices were used to get his point across. For example, he was sympathizing with his victims and their feelings, which appeals to ethos. He also provides historical background about his life and metaphors to appeal to logos. He is able to draw the emotions of his readers with his word choice and imagery to describe what he went through.

Throughout the article, Staples stirs the emotions of the audience by using pathos. He describes how one night he was walking and ended up behind a white woman who had noticed him and began sprinting because she thought he was a mugger or rapist. For instance, he says “It was in the echo of that terrified woman’s footfalls, that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I had come into, the ability to alter public space in ugly ways”. This shows how Staples pulls the emotions off the reader’s because he wants to show that all this is happening because the color of his skin. He also wants the reader feel guilty to gain an emotional reaction “I grew accustomed to but never comfortable”. This statement is important because it makes the reader feel the guilt and makes them feel like they’re in his shoes. This achieves Staples goal of showing his readers how bad racism is.

However, Staples uses the narratives and evidence to back up the stories he explained because he didn’t want to place all of the blame on the white population. With this, personally as a reader it gave reassurance to help gain trust in Staples because it shows how he feels about the situation. With this he gives information about his childhood and how he was surrounded by gang warfare, knife fights and murders “against the backdrop of gang and warfare and street murders”. With having such a tough background and having to grow up in fear, Staples managed to graduate from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D. in Psychology. This shows that he wanted his readers to see that his goal was to do great things and be a successful man even though having a difficult childhood. Staples last appeal he uses is ethos where he backs up his stories and experiences by talking about other experiences of other individuals who had similar encounters to Staples. This shows the credibility that Brent Staples provided within the experiences he had gone through with the audience because this is a common phenomenon that occurs.

Throughout this article Staples was able to get the message across that being racially discriminated by random people is something that nobody should go through. He uses ethos, logos and pathos to provide the audience with a look into the life of a black man. Using these techniques, Staples is able to get the emotions out of the readers and get responses as well as trying to put the readers in his shoes. With using all of the techniques he was able to accomplish his goal of making the audience see how bad racial stereotyping and discrimination and how it is still here till this day. 

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Rhetorical Analysis Of The Black Men And Public Space By Brent Staples

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Brent Staples demonstrates the prejudiced treatment African American men are currently receiving in the United States. Recalling the incidents that occurred in the mid-1970s, he addresses the issue of race and gender by using multiple rhetorical strategies in his article, “Black Men and Public Space.” Many Caucasians have reconsidered their first impressions of black males due to Staples’s effective use of imagery, ethos, and pathos; however, his argument relies heavily on his audience’s sympathy that he neglects to acknowledge the statistic presented in the article.

In “Black Men and Public Space,” published in Ms. Magazine, author Brent Staples reflects on the multiple occasions that led him to discover that his mere presence is enough to make people, particularly Caucasians, perceive him as a criminal. During his first encounter, he came upon a white woman in a deserted street in Hyde Park, Chicago. He was in the avenue behind her when she turned around and revealed a worried expression on her face. After a few more glimpses, she began walking faster and eventually running in fear. “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.” After that experience and the ones that followed, Brent Staples grew accustomed to being mistaken as a threat. Even though Staples illustrated he was a student with insomnia, stalking sleepiness instead of a white woman, he makes it clear that these types of occurrences are common. Caucasians continually have these misconceptions about African Americans — often assuming they are offenders — and let their unnecessary fears of getting robbed or assaulted arise. To seem less intimidating on the streets, Brent Staples would whistle melodies of popular classical composers, which became an effective “tension-reducing measure.”

In his article, “Black Men and Public Space”, Brent Staples targets Caucasian men and women. His reasons for this are to inform them of the false impressions they have of African American men and to persuade them that black race is not associated with crime. He appeals to his audience by using descriptive writing that includes sensory details and figurative language. This allows his audience to recreate a vivid visualization of the experience he’s portraying, forcing them to see through the angle of vision of a young black male. For example, “At dark, shadowy intersections, I could cross in front of a car stopped at a traffic light and elicit the thunk, thunk, thunk of the driver — black, white, male, or female — hammering down the door locks.” He includes this scenario to describe the posture people have when he is just simply crossing the street at night. The sounds of the driver activating the car door locks makes his audience hear the noises and reflect on their actions, many may acknowledge their dishonest behavior. We can see more examples of imagery in the statements “Elsewhere… where sidewalks are narrow and tightly spaced buildings shut out the sky — things can get very taut indeed.” and “They 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.” Brent Staples’s descriptive language actively engages the reader, so they can relate to either of the individuals in the passage, the author that was perceived as a predator or the woman that was the victim of fear.

Another effective strategy is Brent Staples’s ability to elicit emotional response. He uses painfully upsetting anecdotes of his personal background. “…in Chester, Pennsylvania, the small, angry industrial town where I came of age in the 1960s, I was scarcely noticeable against a backdrop of gang warfare, street knifing, and murders.” As part of the audience, we are exposed to the troubles Staples and his community have endured, which provokes pathos. In the following lines, we are also told that even through the harsh upbringings of his childhood and the negative influences that surrounded him, he still managed to remain “one of the good boys.” There are several more of this rhetorical appeal in Staples’s writing. “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 on the streets. I came to doubt the virtues of intimidation early on. I chose, perhaps unconsciously, to remain a shadow-timid, but a survivor.” Brent Staples gathers sympathy from his audience by describing the amount of loss he’s had to endure in his family. The information he reveals about himself contrasts his good-natured personality with the toxic connotation society associates with blackness.

The anecdotes also enhance Staples’s credibility. He connects with the issue of others stereotyping African American males because he’s had firsthand experience with being judged by his skin color, which establishes trust between him and his audience. “I entered a jewelry store… The proprietor excused herself and returned with an enormous red Doberman pinscher straining at the end of a leash. She stood, the dog extended towards me, silent to my questions, her eyes bulging nearly out of her head. I took a cursory look around, nodded, and bade her goodnight.” The woman in the jewelry store was terrified of Staples. She acted by retrieving a vicious dog with the intention of intimidating him, so he would leave the store. She was very prejudiced towards Staples due to his race. Despite Staples’s questioning, which she did not acknowledge, she offered no assistance to him because she assumed that he was a robber.

While it may seem racist for white women to fear the presence of a black man, Staples states, “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.” This is a valuable statistic that Staples addressed; however, he does not go into further explanation that relates this counterclaim to his argument. He doesn’t seem to be concerned that women are more prone to violent crimes and that there is truth behind their preconceptions; he can only evoke empathy from his audience in the following lines, “Yet these truths are no solace against the kind of alienation that comes of being ever the suspect, a fearsome entity with whom pedestrians avoid making eye contact.” Although false interpretations of race are continuous, tolerance alone will not reduce the amount of crimes in the United States. Therefore, his solution evades logic.

In conclusion, Staples effectively highlights the persistent stereotypes he undergoes as a black male. He engages his intended audience by making them believe he is committing an offense, but ultimately indicates that the treatment he is receiving is due to people’s unconscious bias against black race. Staples enables his audience to see through his angle of vision by using descriptive diction, which develops the racist tone of the essay and makes the audience perceive him as the victim. Staples also uses pathos in his writing by going into depth about the environment he grew up in and the pain he’s had to endure in dealing with the death of numerous family members. He communicates that background does not influence a person’s character and persuades his audience that black men are innocent. As Staples continues to speak about the prejudiced treatment of Caucasians, his audience perceives him to be reliable. The article, “Black Men and Public Space”, gave me insight on the viewpoint of an African American man, but it didn’t convince me to change my actions. If I was in the presence of a black man on the street, I would be afraid. Not because of his race, but because I do not know what he is capable of. How was the first woman who ran from Staples supposed to know that he was a common night walker due to his insomnia? Regardless of a man’s race or background, his reputation will remain the prime suspect of crime in a woman’s eyes. Implicit bias is inevitable in public space. If someone feels that they’re in danger of being harmed, they should not feel obligated to act a certain way, so that those who are judging them can feel a sense of security. Women should continue to be alert of their surroundings on desolate streets. 

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Brent Staples’ Use Of Pathos, Ethos, And Logos In The Black Men And Public Space

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Different emotions, views, and thoughts for countless years have associated with the important topic of race. People from different racial backgrounds have been judged on different levels and treated based on the color of their skin. Brent Staples, a well-known African American writer, stood up and countered the negative stereotyping of African Americans in public spaces with his article, “Black Men and Public Space.” Staples employs many rhetorical uses that enhance more appeal to his life experiences as a black man in public spaces. Staples’ article is a prime example of how racism, despite the advancement made over the years, is still very much present. Staples exposes how black men, despite their credentials and accomplishments in life, are still discriminated against, for merely taking a walk down the street. Staples uses several examples of how different Caucasian Americans display racial stereotyping, from police officers with law enforcement to everyday people walking at night. Staples uncovers how some people can be oblivious, and judge a person based on their skin color without considering other aspects of a person’s life.

Staples emphases, in his article, that no matter how educated, hardworking, or successful black men in America are, Caucasian Americans have a negative outlook and discriminate against blacks in a judgmental way. Staples shows examples of referencing racism that is happening all around us in society, specifically by Caucasian America, regardless of all the growth and progress. Staples purpose of the article is to reveal this repetition, in doing so, allowing the people to take control and remove this powerful influence from society. Staples uses rhetorical devices to relate to the audience, meanwhile managing to convey his point. For example, by identifying with his victims and validating their points of view, he appeals to ethos. Staples offers evidence such as his doctorate in psychology, his time as a journalist, descriptions, and analogies that coincide with logos. Staples sets up an opportunity to emphasize the tone of the article, using a docile tone, accommodating and compliant presenting the audience with the impression that he is willing to do anything to make the people around him comfortable he also uses a guilty tone which is vital in gaining an emotional response from the audience. Staples states, “I grew accustomed to but never comfortable….”. This quote is possibly the most critical statement made the entire passage; it demands the audience to begin feeling the tone of guilt and transfers them into the same situation as the writer. Staples uses intense imagery and imaginative word choices to paint a picture of his encounters, and in doing so, Staples induces the emotions of his readers.

Staples presents more than one audience he speaks to white women and speaks to society as a whole invoking the emotions of his audience by using pathos, enhancing the casual intimate environment established by stories and encounters as a black man on the streets. Staples describes walking behind a white woman who when paying focus to him began to walk faster when she thought Staples was following her; she viewed him as a treat because of the color of his skin. Recurring words such as mean and victim are used to draw a picture in the mind of the audience that as he found himself behind a white woman, that the woman’s initial reaction was adverse. Staples progresses and begins to change the picture; Staples begins to raise the emotions of the reader. For example, he says 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”. This quote shows how Staples begins to capture the emotion of the reader, marking misfortunes happening more due to the color of his skin.

The writer’s evidence and stories used show how Staples personal experiences as a black man support his trustworthiness since he does not blame the white women for relating negatively upfront but instead offers relatable information on why they act the way they do. It is evident when you consider the context of this article focusing on racism and discrimination on multiple positions when using rhetorical concepts, impacting the way Staples conducts his writing. Staples shows excellent understanding when it comes to the perspective of the reader; in doing so, this helps establish trust with the audience. Staples reflects on his background, where he grew up and how he was barely noticeable “against the backdrop of gang warfare and street murders”. Staples also goes on to note that amongst a few were brought up as “good boys” showing that he still accomplished to graduate from University with a Ph.D. in psychology. Considering Staples hard background, Staples used contextual evidence to convey to the reader how Staples still managed to stay inspired and prosper to reach certain levels of success in his life. Staples realizations of being a black man expand and improves the trust regarding the message he is conveying. Staples effectively uses a range of emotions to appeal to pathos, which then helps him achieve his purpose, making the audience see the levels of racism and discrimination in public spaces that still exist to date. A final appeal to ethos is made by Staples when he elects to validate his stories by putting forth the experiences of others who had similar encounters — demonstrating the credibility of Staples experiences to the audience since most black males have been through the frequent occurrence of prejudgment.

Using logos Staples references evidence to hold his claims; he says that “It is my equivalent to the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country”. Staples persuades the reader about his argument by showing differences of the cowbell that hikers wear, in this instance, compares to Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ to the cowbell and discriminatory Caucasian Americans to the bears. Adopting diverse methods involving unique techniques focused on influencing the audience from a logical standpoint. Staples, for instance, uses his logical dictation not only truthful but is not overstated. For instance, Staples purposely disregards mentioning the exact crime rates in New York; instead, he states, “Women are particularly vulnerable to street violence….”. Staples instead articulates his argument to illustrate that women are the ones regularly targeted. Staples offers his opinion stating, “Young black males are drastically over-represented among the perpetrators of that violence….”. If someone were to study racial stereotyping about violence, black men would lead the top of the list.

Acknowledging the conflicting views of discrimination, Staples confirms that being discriminated against people is the worst experience that a person should have to endure specifically by complete strangers. Staples uses rhetorical devices such as pathos, ethos, and logos efficiently to provide the audience with a glimpse of what black people, especially black men, go though in modern society. Staples using techniques allows him to pull an emotional response from his audience of white women and society while trying to transfer the reader in his shoes, so they empathize with him. Staples fills his article with a relatable style of writing to establish multiple tones; Staples carries his reader from a docile tone to unexpectedly converting the reader to a tone of feeling guilty. Despite what anyone thinks, racial stereotypes and discrimination is still very much alive and has become a part of life for most. Staples expresses his article by conveying powerful words that shouldn’t be taken lightly and causes us to make it a mission to try harder for future societies.

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Rhetorical Analysis Of Black Men And Public Space By Brent Staples

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Brent Staples, an African American journalist. He took off a childhood of urban poverty through success in school and earned a Ph.D. or PhD in psychology from the University of Chicago in 1982. In Black Men And Public Space Staples demonstrates his argument that not all African American men were harmful and how a stereotype on race and sex can affect people in society. The thesis for the piece is his hope to reform public space through racial stereotypes. It affected to Staples and other persons like him in society. Stables wanted to express and educate his reader that it is unfair to prejudge someone as a mugger, rapist, dangerous person because of their skin color or racial background.

Staples interpret his thesis throughout the essay through narratives of unpleasant incidents in his life. He recounts a first memory from the deserted street in Hyde Park in an impoverished section of Chicago. He swung onto the avenue behind a white, well dressed young woman. She cast back a worried glance and ran in earnest, then disappeared into a cross street. Staples understands that in the thoughts of the women, he is a mugger, a rapist, or worse. To a woman, the six feet two inches with a beard and billowing hair young black man wore navy pea jacket and the collar turned up, hands snug in the pockets might be endangered to her safety. All of the reaction from the woman toward him made him feel like an accomplice in tyranny. After one year, Staples become thoroughly familiar with the language of fear, but he never comfortable when seeing couples locked arms or reached for each other’s hand when seeing him or chose to cross the other side of the street rather than encounter to him. Staples uses imagery examples. He mentions he could pass 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. The action words like “hammering” made his point about racial stereotypes brighter. It emphasized the fear that others felt when he passed them by.

Staples provides another example to give support to his essay. He brought up the content in the essay, “My Negro Problem – And Ours,” by Norman Podhoretz. Podhoretz describes his discomfort when to encounter by black males in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In his essay, he mentions that he cannot constrain his nervousness when he meets black men on certain streets. Correspondingly, Edward Hoagland, the essayist, and novelist also agrees with the idea that he senses fear when surrounded by a black man.

Staples uses the technique of repetition of an equivalent example to make his thesis more noteworthy and appealing. Examples he used help to make the reader feel sympathy towards black men. He continues to describe his experience through a narrative. I can explore many of his emotions through words. He describes a time when he entered a jewelry store but was greeted with an “enormous red Doberman pinscher.” The way that the proprietor looks at him was not pleasant; her eyes were bulging nearly out of her head. At this point, I indeed feel a lot of his emotion through words. Later, Staples realized that he could not change the way people look at him, but he did not let the stereotype of being mistreated in a society overcome his emotion being himself as a black man.

Staples again made his reader touch his heart and emotions when he describes his way of living in society by taking precautions to make himself less threatening. He moves about with care, particularly late in the evening. He lets others clear the lobby before he returns, and was calm and extremely friendly on rare occasions when he had been pulled over by the police.

All of the confrontation not only shows how a stereotype affected the thoughts of the white female he met at the deserted street in Chicago. It happened everywhere, people on the street, the writers, the proprietor at the jewelry store, they all feared him because of his skin color and his characteristic.

In addition, Staples uses emotive imagery to help his readers imagine how good he was, and he had no behavior that could lead him to be a bad black man. The image of him hardly ever to “take a knife to a raw chicken” shows his readers that he is a benign person.

Staples successfully convince his readers to have confidence that not all of the black man is dangerous and to change how people view black man in society. Even though examples of the unpleasant incident came from his experience in the past, I firmly believe there are still some black people who are struggling to fit themselves into society. He made his point clear that not all of the black men are bad and that people only can see once they put their racism aside. People should see everyone equally regardless of their nationality, race, or even the color of their skin.

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