Review of “Black Men and Public Space” by Brent Staples
Judgment is a topic that comes up very often when discussing matters of race, ethnicity, social status, economic status and the various social structures that we are all categorized in. I personally believe that it’s wrong to judge others based on appearances without actually getting to know them first. Aren’t we all the same anyway? Essentially at the core we are all made up of the same molecules and the same elements and the only thing that is different is our perceptions of the world. No one person is really an individual. I don’t mean to speak harshly but rather use this knowledge to possibly look at one another with more respect and seeing others as ourselves could pose to be useful when using harsh words or actions. It may be naïve for me to say that I would treat others with respect and walk up to a person holding a gun as if they were my equal so there is a fine line between judgment and safety.
The issue that this man is facing is the fact that society brings upon judgment based off of the facts of the majority. What ends up happening is, groups of people get judged for things that they have never even done or thought about doing in their lives. Although we must see his perspective as being that of one who is being judged, we must also see the outside world’s point of view.
The amygdalas of the human brain is where our “fight or flight” responses take place. These responses are closely related to registered pictures or words based off of a negative emotion, such as fear. What ends up happening is that the fear is registered and brought into the outside world and applied. The issue here is that we are using our fight or flight responses based off of people we have never met before.
The issue that this man has to overcome is the fact that we have no choice as to what position we are born in and as to what kinds of people are out there in our world. We have no control over the media and what kinds of images they would like to portray to the world. In the case of how groups of individuals act, we have no control over that as well. If the majority of the African American population is seen as gun-wielding murderers and rapists, unfortunately there is no control over that either.
We do however have a choice. Now this may seem unfair but it will essentially boil down to changing one’s life to suit others, which is what this man demonstrates to us. Towards the end of the essay he has clearly evaluated his environment and has acted upon it. By implementing ways to create a more comfortable atmosphere for him and others around him he has learned to avoid people and even whistle a tune from Beethoven.
This may not sound like the most pleasing thing to do, change yourself to suit others but it may be an essential way to survive. Throughout the history of man, and other organisms alike, we learn to adapt and survive in the most comfortable way possible and this is just another example. Although it is much different than having to change your way of hunting food or fending off predators it is an adaptation nonetheless.
The beauty of humankind is the fact that when it boils down to everything we essentially have control over what we do. As stated before, we may not have the abilities to change the world around us but we do have the power to change ourselves. I feel for this man and I do believe that he means very well in his life and he is not a horrible person in the least, he has managed the situation he was given very well. Most would take on the role of the murderer, thief or rapist purely because they begin to think that way about themselves without even realizing it. This man clearly has a strong mind and will to survive and adapt in the world he was born into.