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Enc 1101 - Altering Public Space

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07 JUNE 2011


The ability to "alter public space" can often be a negative reaction by society guided by fear and prejudice as depicted by Brent Staples' in his essay "Just Walk On By". But can one's appearance "alter public space" in a positive manner? Because of his appearance as a young, burly, six-foot-two black man with a beard and billowing hair, Staples is perceived by others to be violent or a criminal. Staples could use his appearance as a positive influence. Examples of this could include safety and security; coming from a violent background, Staples has broken the stereotype by not succumbing to violence, therefore he may influence others that violence need not be the product of violent surroundings. In my experience, I have known people to have a very positive impact on society regardless of appearance and stereotypes. One such example is Darrell, whose appearance benefits him in his career in law enforcement, or my friend RJ, who came from a poor background and now helps society to battle drug addiction. Staples states the general stereotype society places on an individual and the negative impact on that society but this need not be the case.

One argument of safety and security might be seen in the opening paragraph whereby Staples encounters a woman who, because of fear and prejudice based solely on his appearance, instantly assumes he is a criminal to be avoided. Staples might offer to escort the woman and help her to arrive safely at her destination. Once she finds that he is perhaps a kind and helpful person, he could then be seen as her protector from that element that occasionally came into the neighborhood from the ghetto. Because of his appearance, she would be made to feel safe and secure; any outsiders would likely not want to approach her with Staples by her side. This could also dissuade the woman's perception of Staples being violent or a criminal. Staples could even become perhaps a part of a neighborhood watch program, which may give the community a feeling of safety and security.

Comparatively, a prime example is my niece's father Darrell who, like Staples, is a rather large six-foot-five, 280 pound black man. Like Staples, Darrell came from a tough neighborhood and had to fight his way out to break the stereotype of the violence. Many have referenced his appearance as one that is very intimidating and have thought of him as "one wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley". The reality is that Darrell is a man of peace and once the stereotype is put aside, he is a rather likeable person. Darrell is a member of law enforcement as a Pasco County Sheriff's Deputy. He has a proud record of never having to fire his weapon in 14 years of service and was even issued a commendation by Sheriff Bob White in 2005. He now serves as a detective and is a very formidable weapon in the fight against drugs in Pasco County. In my opinion, this is a man who, despite his appearance, would be considered to have a very positive impact on our society.

Staples has also shown himself to be a positive result from a negative stereotype in that



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