Brent Staples in “Black Men and Public Space,” makes the most interesting notion, created by the American society-seeing every black youth as a danger. Staples implication in the essay is that every dark-toned youth is a potential threat. He goes further to describe his young life, in which people saw him as a rapist, a mugger, or even worse. Therefore, in the entire essay we observe Staples bringing the problem of racial discrimination in spotlight. The literary elements used by Staples played a crucial role to catch reader’s attention and empathize his pain, and the challenges he went through. His awareness that he should deal with the public with more understanding, and that is seen in his word choice and language along with the irony, metaphors, and sarcastic tones.
Brent Staples combines humor and outrage to discuss a thoughtful theme: racism. He uses words his audience thinks they understand, such as “victim,” in novel ways. This makes his audience to view his whole topic without traditional blinders. He says, “My first victim was a woman –white” (Staples 294). In the same sentence, Staples relates his youth experiences in a figurative language and a sarcastic tone. The word “victim” as used by Staples is effective in invoking a negative feeling associated with the word. This aspect is an illustration of connotation. The author has also used alliteration in the same sentence e.g. My first victim was a woman – white, well dressed (Staples 294). The “w” words commence with a similar sound.
By using the noun “victim” in his first sentence makes his readers to assume automatically that he is a criminal or in some way contributing in wrongdoing. Staples makes his audience think that he is a threat in the manner that he precisely points out the idea that he is black. In addition, describing the manner that he walked around the dark streets with his hands tucked in his “bulky military jacket” springs off a peculiar sense that would also threaten his readers if they were the ones walking in front of him. Another aspect Staples states, which makes him appear as a threat in the first few paragraphs is the notion that he is walking through an abandoned street in the middle of the night. Staples creates the sense of being a dangerous man because the American society already depicted him the same way given that he is a youthful black male.
Staples tries to magnify on this stereotype to depict that it is true, the American society does judge people basing on their age and race. Staples furthermore fashions this stereotypical impression and then elucidates what he was really doing; fighting insomnia, as proof that not every youthful dark male in the universe is out to injure someone. A prominent aspect of the novel was the calmness of Staples language and voice in his story. It would be very difficult for an individual of his caliber to be judged based on his or her race but still manage to maintain calm the way Staples does in sharing his experiences. Through several anecdotes, Staples contends that strangers fear blacks due to racial stereotypes, ironically compelling him to change his public demeanor to guard his safety (Staples 296).
Staples uses irony to commence his essay. The way he describes the lady makes readers to think that he had really done something bad to the young lady (Staples 295). The use of the words “My first victim” is ironic because he is supposed to be the victim rather than the offender. It is evident that the narrator does not cause harms or problems in his ways. The matter Staples is establishing is that people should not discriminate others based on preconception of a particular race. He uses the irony in his text to demonstrate the injustice of what appears to be and what it should be concerning the treatment to blacks. The narrator seems to be conceding to the idea that people will always consider him as a threat owing to his race.
In conclusion, Brent Staples in his story “Black Men and Public Space,” brings out the theme of racial discrimination the American society has against the blacks. Every black youth is considered as an imminent danger. Staples has been effective in driving the theme of racial decimation through numerous literary elements used as seen by in his choice of words alongside the use of figurative language, irony, metaphors, sarcastic tones, etc.
- Staples, Brent. “Black Men and Public Space.” Life Studies: An Analytic Reader. Ed. David Cavitch. 7th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s: 2001.294-297. Print.