Black Men and Public Spaces


In “Black Men and Public Spaces,” Brent Staples is a black man who whenever in public is meet with fear from others because of his races stereotype. Staples has the ability to alter public space by his physical behavior, his dress and his verbal reaction.


Black men have a reputation of being rapist, murders and gang members, therefore many people are worry of them. But Staples has the ability to change his perception or level of threat to others. He accomplishes this by his physical behavior. The way walks or acts around others can change there mood. For example Staples used to go on walks in the middle of the night in Chicago. When he did he would walk rather fast in his regular clothes with a very concentrated look on his face. One time a woman was also on a stole that night although she was about a block ahead of Staples she thought he was following her and she began to run away. Now Staples notices if people are frightened by him and Staples gives them more room so not to be a threat.


Staples can also change the attitudes of people around him just as easy as one can change there clothes. Clothing is a big part of ones identity because people are defined who they are by what they wear. If a man wears a suit and tie most people would not see that man as a threat or that he was part of a gang. Staples had an experience where he ran into an office building to turn in an urgent article to his editor and the doorman and the security thought that he was a burglar. Staples was not wearing his usual suit and tie rather he was wearing his blue jeans and a t-shirt. These security men chased Staples almost all the way to his editor’s door before the security realized that he worked there. Now Staples is aware that others may se him as a threat so he tries to make them see that he is just a regular guy.


The way that one reacts to a situation can change everything. Staples is more aware of his stereotype. So now he is always walking on egg shells around skittish people. He can verbally change a situation or prevent the stereotype from taking over. For example the few times that Staples has been pulled over by the police he has acted very calm. Or when he is in his regular clothes in the middle of the night at the subway station he hums the melody to a Beethoven song. This lowers his threat because no one would suspect him of being a gang member and knowing that type of music.


In conclusion, Staples does have the ability to alter public space and the people around him. He can change it for the better and for the worse. When Staples was younger he was unaware of when he was causing a threat. But now that he has matured he knows that his physical behavior, the way he dresses, and the way he handles a situation can change the world around him.