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Black Men in Public Spaces Essay

When comparing my essay situation that I wrote about my dad’s run in with racism to Staples essay, one could say that they are both similar and different. In general, their situations were similar because both incidents involved some form of racism. Staples story and my dad’s story both took place in the 1980’s. However, I believe these types of racism are still very much alive. The difference between Staples situation and my dad’s was their responses and how they chose to handle their situations. My father’s story, I felt displayed courage on his part. He didn’t have to act a certain way, change himself, or adapt to his environment to fit in. He did what he needed to do and did not think twice about it. He walked into a diner full of people who stared at him as if he were from another planet. Yet he still went about his business and ordered his food while feeling the piercing stares burn through his flesh. Although he felt uncomfortable being the only Asian man in sight, he ignored the staring faces. The differences I found in their situations were that Staples coped with racism by, ‘smothering the rage’ he had to change who he was.

This can be perceived in different ways. You can look at this and think that he was a coward who didn’t want to deal with what was in front of him, or you can look at this and think that he was a smart person who had courage to find his own ways to cope. We may not all agree that Staples way of dealing with things is the correct way however, it was the way he chose. He taught himself to take precaution by, allowing room between people in front of him and himself when walking, when he felt that people were uncomfortable, he would, ‘whistle melodies from Beethoven, Vivaldi, and other classical composers’. Instead of dealing with being misperceived as a killer, rapist, or murderer, he adjusted his daily way of life around others. I believe this type of racism towards young male men is common.

I am a woman, and am afraid for my life about being raped, killed, or mugged. I grab on tight to the strap of my purse when I am in neighborhoods that are likely targets of purse snatchings. It is very common to hear about women who were raped by ‘young males, wearing jeans, with a sweater and their hands in their pocket’ this is a common description of almost 95% of all young males walking around late in the evening. I can relate to the women because I am a woman and I believe I would have also been afraid just like Staples ‘first victim’ was afraid. She’s a woman, she’s walking alone, walking in a dark alley and a male fitting the description I stated above is behind her also walking alone. I’ve felt this type of anxiety when walking alone at night, or when I am running alone on a trail. It just isn’t safe being a woman walking alone in this society. If I heard a jogger running, or someone walking behind me whistling, I too would be afraid.

I believe it was wise for Staples to come up with such a creative solution. He had to do what he felt he needed to in order to survive, in order to not get arrested, or be mistaken for someone he is not and until society changes their stereotype of young African American males, his tactics for coping is a great idea. He goes on to say how ‘black men trade stories like this all time’ because they are misperceived as a killer, rapist, or a mugger, they are automatically put in a position of being in danger. Staples did what he had to do to survive. It’s almost as if he has found a way to add a bit of humor to the situation. I’ve always believed in the saying, ‘You cannot change the things that are thrown your way, or others peoples actions, but what you can change is the way you react to them’. It is easy to say ‘why do I have to change? Why can’t society change, why can’t others change?’

Yes, this maybe the answer of all answers the answer that makes the most sense however, the reality is you can’t change anyone but you can change yourself and your reaction to things. I believe Staples coping strategies with being misperceived, were effective. Staples, and African American male talks of how he would walk the streets at night and would whistle classical music, to ease fears of the people around him who may think he’s a killer, or a mugger. He felt that he had to change his mannerisms and learn to adapt to being misperceived. It’s easy to say, why should Staples change? Why can’t society or everyone else change? Is it Staples responsibility as a young black man to alert the people around him that he is not a threat? Staples also says that ‘black men trade stories like this all the time’ which leads me to believe that society views the majority of African American males as dangerous.

What I would do differently would be that I would probably stop going out so late at night. Staples never said in his story why he had to go out so late at night and why he went out alone most of the time. Maybe he worked late, or had late classes? Whatever his situation, he was unable to avoid going out late at night. In my opinion I think I would tried to avoid the situation completely. I would not go out alone and if were forced too, I would bring a friend or family member with me. It’s hard to say whether I would handle things differently. I am a woman, I am not African American and I don’t feel I can ever relate to what Staples went through but since we cannot change the stereotypes of society, we must change ourselves as a person to not let these situations make us into a bitter person, and our reaction to situations like this.

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