Both Brent Staples in “Black Men and Public Places” and Judith Cofer in “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria” seem to be illustrating the prejudices some people have. They both explain how the way they look gets them treated by others. Brent Staples, because he is black in perceived as a criminal; Judith Cofer is a Latina and is mistaken for a waitress. Both stories give numerous examples of prejudice.
In addition, each writer has a larger purpose, a deeper reason for writing their story: Brent Staples’ reason for writing his story is to express to the reader how these prejudices affected him as well as other black men all over the country and how society, not just white people fear young black males. Judith Cofer’s reason for writing her story is to us the misconceptions and stereotypes many people have of Latin women. Brent Staples begins his essay by saying, “My first victim was a woman—white, well dressed, probably in her late twenties.
He makes it seem as if he really attacks this woman when the only crime he has committed is being black and taking a stroll late at night. No one seems to look at him as the person he really was at the time; a graduate student at the University of Chicago who as he puts it is a, “softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken—let alone hold one to a person’s throat”. He expresses the feeling of rage at always being perceived as a criminal. He describes how many people, no matter what color, react when he walks by.
He tells up how people lock their car doors as he walks past them, how they cross the street, and how some women clutch onto their purses when they walk by him. Mr. Staples understands the fear as well as the real danger that everyone faces everyday however, he still feels alienated about constantly be perceived as a criminal. He talks about his childhood and being that he grew up in a rough town in Pennsylvania he never fully realized the fear that people felt towards young black males.
In his conclusion paragraphs, he tell us that he has learned to smother the rage that he felt at always being perceived as a criminal as well as telling us that he has taken some precautions to make himself more approachable. He gives people space so that they do not feel threatened by him as well as whistling to reduce tension. I do not believe that someone should change who they are to put others at ease nevertheless, people will always have some sort of fear no matter what one does, prejudice will always exist.
Similarly to Brent Staples, Judith Cofer starts her essay by telling us about an incident that happened to her on a bus in England, where a young man approached her and began singing “Maria” from West Side Story. She tells us of other situations where people have looked at her as being “easy” and as a teenager, her friends and their mothers felt that the cloths she wore were, “too mature and flashy”. Judith Cofer’s main theme is to show the misconceptions as well as the stereotypes people have of Latin women.
She uses examples like how the media uses certain words to describe Latin women, words like: hot tamale, sizzling, and smoldering; how, many Latin women that work in factories are victims of sexual harassment and that people think they are maids or waitresses. She expresses feelings of anger and discontent because of how Latin women as well as she are treated by people. One of the incidents that affected her the most was when she went to a luncheon to read one of her poems an older woman mistook her for a waitress and tries to order a cup of coffee from her.
She says she understands that the woman was not intentionally trying to be cruel yet; she became very angry at the woman. In her conclusion Cofer that she is one of the lucky Latinas, many of them do not have the privilege to receive and education or have the accesses to society that she has. She says, “For them life is as constant struggle against the misconceptions perpetuated by the myth of the Latina. ” Cofer wants to replace the stereotypes with the realities of Latin women. She also tells us of a poem that she wrote where it seems to me that she is kind of ribbing society.
Reflecting on both their private lives as men and women and on the public lives as reveled in the headnotes to both stories; we can see that Staples and Cofer today are successful writers. Staples has written for the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago magazine, Down Beat magazine, Ms. , New York Times Magazine, and Harper’s; he continues to try and shed light on racism and violence in our world. Cofer has written many books, she is an award winning poet, and is currently the Franklin professor of English and Creative Writing at The University of Georgia; she continues to try to do away with the stereotypes of Latin women through her writing.
These two writers are trying to show us that stereotypes and prejudice are not just jokes that we tell each and laugh about, but rather they can and will hurt those being stereotyped. The racist jokes, thoughts, and stereotypes we hear have a bigger impact than to makes us laugh or be fearful, they help to spread racism. We need to try and look deeper and the color of someone skin; we are all human, we all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses, but we cannot let one of our weaknesses be our susceptibility to take part in racism not matter how good natured we may think it is.
Courtney from Study Moose