Black Men And Public Space By Brent Staples Essay

Black Men And Public Space By Brent Staples Essay

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Brent Staples’ piece “Black Men and Public Space” first published in 1986 in a liberal feminist magazine “Ms.” An African American, Staples was often the victim of racial prejudice throughout his young-adulthood. The publication, mostly directed toward white, feminist, affluent women, was supposed to send a message about racial prejudice and empathy. Staples develops his purpose, that people should be empathetic toward African Americans, through self-blaming tone, imagery, and ethical appeal.
First, Staples uses a self-blaming tone to help his purpose. The piece opens with “My first victim was a white woman, well dressed, probably in her early twenties” (1). He goes on to say that he had his hands in his pockets, and was giving a comfortable distance between himself and the woman, but yet she still perceived him as an attacker. By using this abrasive diction, Staples is making himself seem like a criminal, even though he was not doing anything illegal or hostile. Next, the author discusses how when he moved away from his hometown, he became more knowledgeable about the language of fear. He would cross in front of cars and hear doors lock, or people would cross the street to avoid passing him on the sidewalk. He also says “Then there were the standard unpleasantries with policemen, doormen, and cabdrivers, and others whose business it was to screen out troublesome individuals before there is any nastiness” (3). Through the use of this phrase, Staples is making himself the victim, appealing to again the audience 's emotions. Similarly, when the author is talking about his background, Staples says: ”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 abilit...


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...rglar or being threatening. Lastly, Staples uses the anecdote of a time when he was trying to kill time before work and found himself in a scary situation. “I entered a jewelry store on a city’s affluent Near North Side. The proprietor excused herself and returned with an enormous red Doberman Pinscher straining at the end of a leash. She stood, the dog extended toward me, silent to my questions, her eyes bulging nearly out her head.” This example illustrates the terror the author felt at being confronted, which then in turn makes the audience feel his fear as well.
In conclusion, Staples’ “Black Men and Public Space” was written in a time where even after civil rights legislation had been passed, there was still racial prejudice. His purpose, that people should be more empathetic toward African Americans is assisted by pathetic appeals, imagery, and ethos appeals.

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