Black Men in Public Places by Brent Staples, is a narrative story about the mishaps a young African-American man had to encounter in Chicago, as a new graduate student at the University of Chicago, and in New York City, in the late 70's and early 80's. Brent Staples tells us how other people mistook him by a criminal many times in public places just because of his appearance. The short stories that he mentions in his essay explain how he was scaring people, especially young women, just with his mere presence, in the streets, at a store or in a train. The fact of the matter is, that he was probably more scared than they ever were, since even as a child he parted himself away from "criminal behavior", so common in his childhood neighborhood. However, because none of these actions towards Mr. Staples was personal, he understood very well why others acted in that manner.
The danger that he represented was not part of their imagination, it had a, not just, but understandable explanation. According to Mr. Staples, he never blamed anybody for the way they behaved in such way towards him, since statistically, even today, is more common for African-Americans to commit more of these types of crimes. This means that Mr. Staples knew that these people were mistaken for being scared of him particularly since he was not a criminal, but maybe next time they should be scared of another African-American man.
Mr. Staples grew to understand the reasons why people would cross the street instead of passing him on the sidewalk, for example. He also understood that this kind of behavior of others was not at all his fault. Mr.
Staples remembers when he was growing up how he witnessed very young black men (friends and family), make countless terrible mistakes, which cost them their freedom, and even worse, their lives. According to the essay, Mr. Staples believes that all the unspoken wrong accusations he had to face in his youth and throughout his lifetime, were in fact a product of past wrong doings by others. These kinds of situations were unpredictable, unplanned and unpleasant for everybody involved, including him. Nevertheless, he understood them. The essay seems to explain how in some ironic way, Mr.
Staples almost agreed with these accusations. In addition, if he had been the young woman of his story, he probably would have done the same thing she did, trying to walk faster and disappear at the corner. Learning how to stay calm and relaxed was just a small lesson that he had to learn in order to maintain reasonable. The most important and significant point of this essay, is not that Mr. Staples was treated, and still is, unfairly and rudely, thru no fault of his own. Instead, that he learned how to cope with what the world is because of its history: unfair and rude.
Instead of being unfair and rude himself, or getting completely angry, losing his temper, and bringing himself to act the same way others before him acted. Mr. Staples learned how to change uncomfortable situations, such as the ones he mentions in his essay. He had to learn that people at public places were going to be scared and uncomfortable with him, especially late at night in a deserted street corner. But by understanding why people acted in the manner they acted with him, Mr. Staples found that there are ways of altering unconscious behavior of others.
Mr. Staples found that there are ways of changing these unpleasant situations into comfortable, nothing out of the ordinary, memories. Therefore, instead of making things worse for everybody, Mr. Staples took a different approach. By recognizing these types of situations, taking small precautions, and avoiding, if possible, the type of situations that trigger the almost inevitable behavior of others towards him. Mr.
Staples learned how to put scared people in public places, at ease.