Black Men and Public Space Summary

In the article Black Men and Public Space written by Brent Staples, the narrator – a black man shares his experience with relations with people in public areas who are afraid of him because of the color of his skin. In his writing Staples suggests that people still continue portraying black men as dangerous for society individuals. These prejudices are based on the racial stereotypes without rationalizing and thus they cause stress to black men, as the last are treated as threats despite their true nature. People around them feel concerned and anxious because, in the past, black men had awful reputations and were associated with “a mugger, a rapist, or worse”. Get more information from our Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space summary.

Black Men and Public Space Tone

The tone from the text appears to be ironic. Staples opens the narration with a very powerful statement: “My first victim was a white woman […]” (Staples) – despite the fact that he himself was a victim and ‘a white woman’ was an offender. Though the narrator does not do any trouble or make any harm to the people around, the woman “picked up her pace and was soon running in earnest.” (Staples) The issue the author reveals with the help of irony in the article is that people should prejudge others because of the preconception of their race. And the black man was a victim of the discrimination, not the woman. Staples uses irony in the text in order to illustrate the injustice of what is seems to be and it must be regarding the treatment to black men. Such a powerful introduction sets the stage for the struggle black men and women still face today in the 21st century.

Black Men and Public Space Irony

The other example of irony that helps the author to establish and strengthen his idea is the fact that the narrator (the black man) is an educated person. He is a well-read, intelligent, and educated man, who earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago. Nevertheless, when he appears in a public place, he is always taken for a criminal. Staples on purpose uses a complicated sophisticated vocabulary in the article: ‘youngish’, ‘to alter’, ‘scarcely’, ‘perpetrators’, and so on. He wants to underline his intelligence in such a way. Also, the black man’s habit to “whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers” (Staples) is an attempt to declare his erudition. But indeed, there are no scientific researches or experiments that prove that the color of the skin has something to do with how intelligent, smart, or stupid a person is.


The configurations of time and space are represented by the author in the article converted. The narration begins with the description of what had happened with the protagonist more than ten years ago in Chicago when he was a twenty-year-old student. Later Staples mentions other experiences after moving to New York for a job. In such a way the author tries to highlight that no matter where or when he is, the black men in a public place is always treated as a dangerous person that is somehow involved in criminal activity. The United States is a very judgmental place. In his article, Staples shows how cruel and preconceived the society nowadays is. It is so wrong that any person has to alter his or her behavior or habits because it makes other people uncomfortable. Racial discrimination is still alive and well as it was two centuries ago when slavery was abolished.

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