Misconceptions in Black Men and Public Space by Brent Staples

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In the essay, Black Men and Public Space, Brent Staples thoroughly illustrates his trials of how people act timid or strange due to hasty misconceptions whenever he is in public. Staples composed this piece to highlight the trivial stereotypes labeled on black citizens in America. Staples provides several incidents in which he, and sometimes others, were mistreated and singled out. Staples speaks on the feelings of being embarrassed and agitated in public due to people being leery or startled by his presence. He also talks about the route he chooses to relieve citizens of worry.

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Staples was raised in a poor section of Pennsylvania and became a Ph.D. graduate in psychology and master’s in behavioral sciences. After years of instructing at several Chicago universities, Staples moved to New York to be an editor at the New York Times. Growing up as an African American in America, Staples endured and saw countless situations dealing with racial bias and racial profiling to the point where he has to write about these issues. In the essay, Staples displays to the audience how even though black men and women in America work rigorously to; put food on the table, clothes on their kids back, and have a place of shelter–plenty of Caucasians will still expect those same black people to be killers and thieves. Staples provides several scenarios to highlight how racism has never died out and still going in today’s society despite all the protests and laws made.

Staples uses pathos to pull at the hearts of the audience by explaining the personal and unconventional moods conceived by his experiences as an African American in public. For example, he states “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” (Staples). This is a great instance where Staples ties to the emotions of his audience due to him talking about how he is frowned upon in public because of his ethnicity. For the duration of the essay, Staples tends to draw a sense of being guilty from the audience. Staples says, “I grew accustomed to but never comfortable” (Staples). This is one of the most compelling remarks made throughout the essay since it causes his readers to feel frustrated and allows them to be in the same shoes as him. Staples adopts various emotions to appeal to pathos, which benefits his arguments and thesis.

Staples also appeals to ethos by using personal experiences with narration which provides evidence and further shows his credibility because he never explicitly faults the women for acting hastily. He instead gives a glimpse of the setting and historical background to highlight the reasons why they act as such. This in hand displays his perspective of his encounters, which aids in implementing assurance with his readers. Staples recounts his upbringing and how he saw, as he states, “against the backdrop of gang warfare and street murders” (Staples). Staples also talks about how he was a good child growing up while never changing and eventually become a graduate from Widener University and the University of Chicago where he gained his Ph.D. His anecdotes showed his readers despite his rough upbringing, he was still able to be motivated to accomplish things other in similar circumstances couldn’t. Due to Staples providing very clear-cut details about his encounters as a black person around other races, he establishes integrity and builds trust with the audience.

Finally, Staples appeals to logos by providing substantial information to support his remarks. For example, 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 men are drastically overrepresented among the perpetrators of that violence”(Staples). This shows the audience that Staples knows why the women act and help them not hold only the women at fault for acting obnoxious. Another example would be when Staples states, “Over the years, I learned to smother the rage I felt at so often being taken for a criminal”(Staples). This gives the audience understanding through stating how he overwhelmed the anger and was able to block out the hate and “nay-saying”.

In conclusion, discrimination is one of the biggest issues in America and Brent Staples wrote this essay to inform others about the struggles of being a black man discriminated against in public. Staples utilizes pathos, ethos, and logos to show his audience what it’s like being a black man in the public eye. He also uses his and others’ experiences to get his message across, enlighten his audience and get an emotional response from the reader. All of these components allow Staples to help the audience understand that even though throughout history progress has been made, racism and segregation never died and happens currently in today’s society.

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