How many racism problems occur every year? The racism problem has happened for hundred years, and we never know when it ends. It often happens to the black people. Has anyone ever imagined ourselves as black people, living a life of them, and experiencing how others treat a black person? ‘My first victim is a woman’ (Staples 502) is a quote from an essay of Brent Staples, who was treated as a criminal because of his black skin. Brent Staples was born and grew up as an American with black skin, and he was treated as a felony because of his skin color. In Brent Staples’s article, “Black Men and Public Space,” Staples boldly wrote about what he went through, and the extreme frustration of racism played such a large role in his life when others behaved and stereotyped as a dangerous person in public society. Brent Staples uses examples, imagery, comparisons, and onomatopoeia to recreate the atmosphere when others face him; readers easily understand how prejudice and racism happen to black people.
The first example of the misconceptions about Staples was a young white woman. She assumed Staples as a mugger, a rapist, or even worse (Staples 502). Although Staples walked behind her with an immense distance, the white woman seemed to worry that he might hurt her because of his appearance as a big, tall young man with a frump look, such as a beard on his face, wearing a military jacket, and hand in pocket. Plus, his skin was black, so she took off extremely fast and disappeared in just a few seconds after she saw him. In New York city, when any woman walked on the street and saw him down their way, they would cross to the other side of the road because they did not want to have eye contact or walk next to a black man. People immediately closed and locked their car’s doors every time they saw him walking on the street. When they saw him, the first sign that appeared in their head was harmful; the black man might hurt them.
Staples also described two more times when people misconceived him as a thief because of his black skin. One night, Staples worked as a journalist and was handing his paper in the magazine office. The office manager thought he was a thief and called security. The reason was just that Staples was black, and it was night; the manager assumed that the back man was a thief and might cause danger. Again, one more confusion happened when he was killing time and waiting for an interview to write papers for the local. He went to a jewelry store. The owner took her big Doberman dog standing in front of him, and both of them stared at him because she thought he might be a robber.
Staples used another example of black journalists to show his readers that the misconception did not only happen to Staples. When the other black man went to look for information about a killer to write his paper, the police thought he was the murder. They dragged the black journalist out of his car and pointed their gun at him. Staples has learned to control his anger for years when someone behaved toward him as a felon. He would go crazy if he could not manage his sensitivities. Now, he tries not to look intimidating to people by moving carefully, giving people more space on the subway. Staples also changes his outfit, avoids standing near other people, and tries to calm when the police pull him over. Significantly, he starts to whistle the melodies of Beethoven’s music and Vivaldi’s hymns to relax and make New York’s residents feel more relaxed about him.
First, in the essay, Staples uses many examples to express racial stereotypes. At the beginning of the essay, Staples mentions that the young white woman considered him a mugger or a rapist. Staples states, ‘My first victim was a woman-white, well-dressed, probably in her late twenties’ (502). This very first quote makes the reader understand that his story is set to unfold and will not be happy because he assumes the wrong person’s role. The reader can see a white woman as a victim, and Staple, a black man, as an offender. People fear the worst from him; they try to avoid eye contact, avoid walking on the same road. People also lock their cars when they see him walking on the street (Staples 503). Clearly, we see how people are really afraid of him. The black man just walks on the street and does nothing, but he never has peace in his mind.
Continuing by giving examples, Staples again describes two other times people unreasonably mistook him for a thief and a colleague of his as a killer. These examples make the reader feel they sympathize with the black men and all the prejudice they can not remove. When he worked as a journalist in Chicago, people misconceived him as a burglar because of his black skin. Staples says, ‘I was mistaken for a burglar. The office manager called the security and, with an ad hoc posse, pursued me through the labyrinthine halls’. Staples explained when he entered one of the jewelry stores for killing time before an interview, he was greeted with “an enormous red Doberman pinscher straining at the end of a leash’ (Staples 504) standing toward him. Next to the dog, the proprietor’s eyes glared at him and almost bulging out (Staples 504). All the examples of Staples help readers quickly understand the hardship of black men’s lives. Plus, the victims of Staples will realize their mistakes when they read his essay.
The author also uses an example of one of the black journalists whom he knows to prove that racism happens to many black people, not only him. The police made a mistake that they thought the black reporter was a killer. They dragged him out of his car while pointing their gun at him (Staples 504). The police made a huge mistake, and it surely hurts black people’s feelings pretty badly. At this point, black people can say that they are afraid of other people. They have done nothing, but the cautions of people around him are too high; therefore, it causes a very big mistake.
Staples uses a lot of vivid imagery to help the readers quickly to imagine and understand all the problems that he went through. Staples says, ‘ To her, the youngish black man- a broad six feet two inches with a beard and billowing hair, both hands shoved into the pockets of a bulky military jacket’; his appearance with a frump look and black skin scared his people away. Staples wrote, ‘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’ (Staple 502). In my opinion, at the time when he heard footsteps getting faster and faster and disappearing, he was pretty sure that the woman thought that she met a bad black guy. She tried to run away from him as fast as she could, and the proof was her footsteps. These images let the reader experience the depth of his story.
Plus, Staples again uses the image to show readers that he is genuinely a harmless person. He states, ‘ As a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to raw chicken – let alone hold one to a person’s throat’ and ‘I was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed all at once’ (Staples 502). His quote surely shows how intends to be a good and kind person. Reader can understand that he was very shocked and sad when people thought he would hurt them, and judged him by his appearance and labeled him as a criminal. Staples also describes people who walk on the street at night in Chicago “have 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 503). The reader also can see the image of the proprietor’s eyes and her Doberman glaring at him and almost bulge out at the jewelry store. All the women tried to protect themselves from a black man based solely on their appearance or maybe the men’s skin color.
Moreover, Brent Staples uses comparisons to enhance the fear that people feel with the presence of him. Staples describes when he first met his victim, ‘after a few more quick glimpses, she picked up her pace and was soon running in earnest. Within seconds, she disappeared into a cross street’ (Staples 502). Readers can see that because of the appearance of Staples made the woman rush getaway when she just saw him; it made him feel like ‘an accomplice in tyranny,” and he was ‘indistinguishable from the muggers who occasionally seeped into the area from the surrounding ghetto’ (Staples 502). This experience shows the readers how the woman’s racism affected her actions and thinking. It hurts the emotions of black men; it also hurts their spirit and self-esteem.
Additionally, Staples uses onomatopoeia to recreate the street’s atmosphere at night when everyone misconceived him as a bad guy. Staples says, ‘I could cross in front of a car stopped at a traffic light and elicit the thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk of the driver, white, male, or female-hammering down the door locks’ (503). The locking sounds made a discomfort feeling and extent of precaution that only the white women acted due to black men’s presence.
Overall, in Brent Staples’s article, ‘Black Men and Public Space,’ he powerfully uses his own stories as examples, and he powerfully uses imagery and onomatopoeia in the essay. Readers easily experience and understand how he is sad and hurt when everyone behaves toward him as a criminal and dangerous in this society.