Racism Never Dies

Dalvin Bartley
Elizabeth de Souza
15 October 2010
Racism Never Dies
In “Just Walk on By” by Brent Staples, the author describes the reactions of people walking on streets in response to seeing an approaching black man of the author’s appearance. Staples begins by describing the first time he had noticed a negative reaction to his presence when a young woman ran away from him while he was walking casually behind her almost a block away. At this moment, Staples realizes that because of the way he dressed, his height, and long hair he appears frightening to people, particularly white people, he came across while walking along the streets. Staples makes the association that statistically, that a majority of rapists and muggers are black and that people avoid coming in contact with him on the streets for fear that Staples has the intention of harming them in some manner. Once he became aware of his blatant distinction from other passersby, Staples began to “become thoroughly familiar with the language of fear” (255). Staples notices that people on the streets were afraid of him, and so he began observing different behaviors demonstrated by people he encountered while walking.
At the beginning of the essay, Brent’s word choice was purposely misleading. He started out by saying, “My first victim was a woman…” This led me to think that the author was a criminal. But as I read on I realized that I had made the same mistake many other people had. As a young black male in Chicago, Brent Staples had been mistaken for a burglar, murderer, or simply a vicious man. He did an excellent job describing the fear he saw when he walked by people: “They seem to have their faces on neutral, and with their purse straps strung across their chests bandolier-style, they forge ahead as though bracing themselves against being tackled” (363).
There were a few rhetorical devices the author used that really helped him get his point across. An onomatopoeia is the use of words...