(posting #5) “Just Walk On By”

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the essay “Just Walk On By” Author Brent Staples analyzes the relationship between his persona as a Black man and the living space around him. He describes stories of pedestrians, often women, who go out of their way to avoid him at night. Staples’s essay directly addresses issues regarding race and the projection of stereotypes. Upon moving to New York, the interactions with other people are simply intensified. Walking around Manhattan at night, Brent recalls the typical encounter with women: “I often witness that “hunch posture,” from women after dark on the warren like streets of Brooklyn where I live. They seem to set their faces on neutral and, with their purse straps strung across their chests bandolier style, they forge ahead as though bracing themselves against being talked” (pg. 205). The sense of an unintentionally intimidating presence creates an alienated setting for Brent.

The relevant and complicated issue involving race within the essay can also be seen in the 2004 film, Crash. The American drama explores racial and social tensions in Los Angeles, and depicts scenes with similar incidences. A Caucasian Couple known as Rick and Jean walk around L.A. after an evening out. As they walk past two Black strangers, Jean clutches her purse and notably changes her body posture. The Black men discuss racial discrimination, only stopping to suddenly mug the couple.

Here are the clips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr-vqKH56w8&feature=related (Café Scene)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHS1WzGPq2s (Changing Locks)

Jean becomes traumatized by the incident and resorts to having her locks changed by a Hispanic man. She mentions to Rick the whole concept of being scared while simultaneously being aware of any racial tensions. Jean notes had she reacted any differently to the Black men, she would be deemed a racist, yet her fears had materialized. She yells at the locksmith and proceeds to deem him as some “gangbanger”.


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