Brent Staples, called "Black men and public spaces" in which he analyzes the impact of gender and race in the contemporary American society. In order to better illustrate the thesis which Brent makes upon the today's racist America we will be also bringing into discussion "The color purple" written by Alice Walker.
The main argument that Staples is trying to build is that despite the efforts which have been pursued in order to make sure that all the American citizens will be treated equally, race is still a major source of discrimination. Although everybody benefits from the same rights, the manner in which white people perceive the black ones is more than unjust.
The author tells several stories in which white people were afraid of him or took him for a thief, just because of his skin color. He is considered to be a dangerous person and he is aware that for the average white people he is impersonates roles such the rapist, the robber, etc. Reading between the lines we understand that the problem is the very perception of black people who are associated with poverty and violence.
The role of the public space is important because it represents the scene where many every day life episodes take place. In a private space people usually form close relationships based on deeper knowledge. In the public space, which belongs to everybody, people relate to each other based on appearance and personal beliefs. The author's appearance is not peculiar, he is a regular individual wearing common clothes. If he is perceived as a threat despite his normal, calm behaviour that is because the perception of the others is altered.
This alteration is based on the stereotype according to which all black men are poor, uneducated and violent, therefore representing a constant threat. White people feel vulnerable and tend to point the finger before any harm has been done. It is outrageous how criminality and violence are associated with blacks only under the circumstances when there are so many white poor illiterate Americans as well and when the criminality rate amongst white is big as well.
Through various examples such as the episode in which he came in running because he was late for a deadline and was mistaken for a thief, Staples demonstrates that black people have to deal with prejudice regarding their own skin color in all the possible environments, including the professional one where one would expect high educated people to be more open minded. In order to support this argument, he also tells the story of a colleague of his who was investigating a crime in order to write an article while the police think he could be the criminal only because he was black.
Although it might sound outrageous and exaggerated, other examples from real life seem to prove the fact that white America is still under the strong influence of racial stereotypes. An even more outrageous event had sergeant James Crowley arrest a black man because according to him, he was breaking and entering.
In fact the man in case, called Henry Louis Gates Jr., was actually doing his business as a university professor at Harvard. If this can happen in academic environments, it is highly likely that it will happen in poor urban environments where white people will judge all the black ones as potentially dangerous criminals coming from the ghetto.
Staples' text does an excellent job at illustrating Gates' situation. What the reader needs to understand is that the identity of the social persona is built according to factors such as class, gender and race in a manner which is not objective but rather feeds itself upon stereotypes and feelings of fear in the case of young black men. The state might be defending the equality of rights for all its citizens, but the fact that the white people feel threatened by all the African-Americans and tend to sanction them demonstrates that not only the white feeling of superiority, but also that a strong segregation still persists within the contemporary society.
If we think about the novel "The color purple," published by Alice Walker, we realize how serious the situation is. One of the main themes discussed in the novel is represented by racism. Indeed, the narrator tells the…