BRENT STAPLES - BRENT STAPLES After earning a Ph.D in...

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BRENT STAPLESAfter earning a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago, BrentStaples (1951– ) soon became a nationally recognized essayist. He has worked on numerous newspapers and is now an Editorial Board member of The New York Times. Staples’s autobiography, Parallel Time: Growing Up in Black and White, was published in 1995. He is currently working ona history of the Negro Press and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife. This selection first appeared in slightly different form in Ms. magazine (1986) and then in Harper’s(1987).Pre-Reading Journal EntryIn recent years, racial profiling—targeting people for investigation based on their race or ethnicity—has become a controversial issue. What is your opinion of this practice? Is racial profiling ever acceptable? Freewrite on these questions in your journal.BLACK MEN AND PUBLIC SPACE1My first victim was a woman—white, well dressed, probably in her early twenties. I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago. As I swung onto the avenue behind her, there seemed to be a discreet, uninflammatory distance between us. Not so. She cast back a worried glance. To her, the youngish black man—a broad six feet two inches with a beard and billowing hair, both hands shoved into the pockets of a bulky military jacket—seemed menacingly close. After a few more quick glimpses, she picked up her pace and was soon running in earnest. Within seconds she disappeared into a cross street.2That was more than a decade ago. I was twenty-two years old, a graduate student newly arrived at the University of Chicago. It was in the echo of that terrified woman’s footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I’d come into—the ability to alter public spacein ugly ways. It was clear that she thought herself the quarry of a mugger, a rapist, or worse. Suffering a bout of insomnia, however, I was stalking sleep, not defenseless wayfarers. As a softy who is

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