“Black Men and Public Space” by Brent Staples

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Journalist, Brent Staples, in his personal narrative, “Black Men and Public Space,” emphasizes being discriminated against for the color of his skin. Staples’ purpose was to describe that people often misjudge others because of their race or gender and wants to promote emotional consequences that could arise from this . He adopts a lonely and sorrowful tone to appeal to the readers and show he is hurting because of this. Staples’ use of diction, imagery, and personal anecdotes add to his ethos and pathos to get the readers to further understand his claim.

Staples begins his narrative using a solid, ironic statement to grab the reader’s attention. His first sentences “My first victim was a woman- white, well dressed, and probably in her early twenties. I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park… After a few quick glimpses, she picked up her pace and was soon running…” were a great example of diction. Staples’ use of the words “victim” and “I came upon her” suggests a sarcastic tone and describes the way the general public typically thinks. If anything, she wasn’t a victim in this situation, he was. He’d been a victim of stereotyping and racism in one tiny moment. Because the author started off his narrative using a disheartening encounter, this added pathos because it got the readers to feel upset that this even happened to him. There’d been no motive for her to feel threatened and feel the need to run.

Staples moves on to recognizing how that first encounter of misjudgement, led him to believe he was too “threatening” to be out on the streets like any ordinary person. “As a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken- let alone hold one to a person’s throat, I was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed all at once,” is all Staples had to say to create imagery. This line obtains the readers to imagine this man not even able to cut a raw chicken, he’s so innocent. This comparison tells us he has no violent motives and proves his negative attitude towards violence. This appeals to his ethos because it demonstrates he doesn’t have the tendency to attack people, like he’s presumed to. His style of writing supports his claim that he’s unfairly identified.

Staples shifts to putting himself in another persons shoes to show all perspectives. He demonstrates empathy when lets everyone know he’s very aware the danger woman perceive “is not a hallucination,” and they are vulnerable to street violence. However, he goes on to claim that ”these truths are no solace against the kind of alienation that comes of ever being the suspect, a fearsome entity with whom pedestrians avoid making eye contact.” From that quote, you notice his tone of loneliness and his use of the word “alienation.” His tone and that word adds to his pathos and lures us to feel this sense of sadness for him. No one should feel excluded because of their skin color or race. It’s unfair that someone should feel the need to hide themselves, or make themselves seem harmless, just to make someone else feel safe. Staples wanted everyone to recognize this sense of loneliness isn’t only felt by him, but from many others with similar situations.

Some may argue that Brent Staples was exaggerating in the fact that not only black men make others feel “threatened”. Many people say that in any similar situation, any woman would feel some fear near a man of any race or skin tone. However, Staples is very effective in the way that he includes many personal anecdotes and includes that “black men trade tales like this all the time,” of unfair treatment, showing they are the biggest victims of stereotyping. Overall, he aimed to have others acknowledge this unfair judgement. Staples’ incorporation of pathos, ethos, and rhetorical devices all over his narrative further perfected his claim. Staples strongly proved that lives are impacted by these harmful assumptions and how important it is for people to realize that it hurts.

Cite this paper

“Black Men and Public Space” by Brent Staples. (2021, Dec 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/black-men-and-public-space-by-brent-staples/



What does staples mean by the phrase Public Space?
They are referring to the areas in a community that are open and accessible to everyone, such as parks, plazas, and sidewalks.
What is the purpose of just walk on by by Brent Staples?
The essay is about how Staples, a black man, is often perceived as a threat because of his race, and how he has learned to deal with it.
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