Staples Response

In his essay, “Black Men and Public Space”, black author Brent Staples explores the problem of being feared and stereotyped in public, especially in the dark, but he is not able to offer any permanent or widespread solutions to this problem because none exist on a short term scale.  In order to have a solution to this particular problem, Staples would have to be able to change stereotypes; he would have to be able to erase the fact that, as he states, “black males are drastically overrepresented among the perpetrators of […] violence.”  What he is able to offer, however, is an account of his short term remedies that help him to feel more at ease with his innate ability to make people feel uncomfortable.    Since he cannot change fear or stereotypes, Staples, instead, does things like “whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers….

Virtually everybody seems to sense that a mugger wouldn’t be warbling bright, sunny selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.”  He also tries to keep a distance from people who appear to be jittered or bothered by his presence by doing such things as waiting until they have cleared a lobby before he enters.  Although it bothers him that this is how society responds to a black man on the street, he acknowledges the fact that this is the way it is, and he also realizes that he cannot change the world, but he can, however, make himself feel good about who he is and he can make others a bit more comfortable around him by being “calm and extremely congenial” and “taking precautions to make [him]self less threatening.”

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