In “Just Walk On By”, Brent Staples discusses his personal experiences with racial profiling and how he handled it and reacted to it. He expresses how throughout his life, others have discriminated against him because he is a tall, black, man working as a journalist in a predominately white field. He understands that we live in a country that has become increasingly violent and dangerous, he feels frustrated that black men, in particular, are still being judged and misjudged based on their appearance alone.
For example, he cites instances where he was mistaken for a burglar and a fellow journalist was mistaken for a killer. These incidents, he claims, are not uncommon. Although Staples short story mostly gives brief stories of his personal experiences they show what black men in our society go through on a daily and despite the fact that times have changed, we still live in a prejudiced country.
Throughout the story, Staples was able to give real life examples to show the prejudices that he’s faced himself. The first example he provides is when he begins to explain how he realized his ability to alter a space. In grad school, he would take walks at night and he noticed his appearance frightened others when he used to take late night walks. In the text, he says “ She cast back a worried glance. 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 seemed menacingly close.” Using that story was a perfect example to show his ability to alter a space. The definition of prejudice is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
In that story, Staples was automatically assumed to be dangerous without doing anything to come off that way. The woman’s fear of him without him having to do anything to her or towards her to scare her shows that she was being prejudice of him to assume him as dangerous or a criminal. Although the story was years ago, it was one of his first experiences with being discriminated against. And the perceivement of black men in our society have not changed. As a black man in our society Staples had to learn to adapt and change the things he does, his demeanor and the way he carries himself to avoid judgment.
After constantly being discriminated against Staples began to accommodate and take precautions to make himself appear less dangerous. Staples says with time he learned to get rid of the anger he felt when he so commonly was taken as a criminal. The text states “ I move with care, particularly late in the evening. I give a wide berth to nervous people on subway platforms during the wee hours, particularly when I have exchanged business clothes for jeans.”, “And on late-evening constitutionals along streets less traveled by, I employ what has proved to be an excellent tension-reducing measure: I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers.” These changes Staples made in his lifestyle show the conscious effort he has to make in order to appear like less of a threat even though he was never one, to begin with.