In his essay, "A Black Man Ponders His Power To Alter Public Space,"" Brent Staples examines racism and the misconceptions that contribute to it. He writes of how something as simple and innocent as taking a late night stroll subjected him to the racism and fear .
of others, and of how his everyday life was under continuous scrutiny by a white society that both feared and misunderstood him. He discusses how black men are frequently victimized by white racist presumptions about their characters that are based solely upon the color of their skin. .
Writing from the perspective of a black man, Staples makes his point right away in the essay by describing an encounter with a white woman while he is out for a late night walk. Her obvious fear of him even though she has no logical personal reason to fear him makes him realize that he has "the ability to alter public space in ugly ways."" (Staples) If her reaction to him had been an isolated incident he would not have reached such a conclusion, but unfortunately, such experiences are all too common in his life. Simply because he is black, many white people automatically assume he is up to no good and react accordingly.
For example, Staples describes for his readers how, "when I was working as a journalist in Chicago and was rushing into the office of a magazine I was writing for with a deadline story in hand, I was mistaken for a burglar."" (Staples) The racist assumption by the white people in the building that a black man who is running must be a burglar led to ridiculously unfair results, for the office manager called security and pursued Staples through the halls, nearly to his editor's door. "I had no way of proving who I was,"" Staples explains in his essay. "I could only move briskly toward the company of someone who knew me."" (Staples).
These examples from the author's life demonstrate to me how black people must always be on the defensive, and constantly be prepared to be accused of something or be mistrusted by white people.