By engaging in simple tasks such as taking a late night stroll, Staples automatically becomes subject to others? racism and fear. His everyday life is under continuous scrutiny by a white society that both fears and misunderstands him. Staples introduces the very extent to which society fears black people in the first sentence. On a late night saunter, his “first victim [is] a woman – white, well dressed, probably in her early twenties.” Fortunately, in reality, the woman is not the victim of any black on white racial violence; but, unfortunately, Staples is the victim of white racist presumptions about his character, that are based solely on the colour of his skin. This incident makes him realize he has ?the ability to alter public space in ugly ways?; sadly however, it is only the beginning of Staples? encounters with a predominantly white society and their racial stereotypes. Staples realizes that women have a right to be weary of men while they are alone at night; however, he takes ?no solace against the kind of alienation that comes of being ever the suspect.? Somehow, despite all the animosity Staples faces, he consciously, or ?perhaps unconsciously? decides that he will ?remain a shadow ? timid, but a survivor.? He figures it will be better to accept how society views him, rather than to fight it. He chooses to change his routine to make society comfortable, as to not be a menace to anyone. Staples ?[learns] to smother the rage [he feels] at so often being taken for a criminal,? for he knows that if he fails to do this, he will only go insane. Furthermore, Staples presents a view of life in which a black male must live in order to be accepted in today’s predominantly white society. By taking certain ?precautions,? such as whistling “sunny selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons” while walking down the street at night, society becomes more relaxed and a feeling of comfort is obtained in his presence.
While Staples becomes somewhat assimilated into a white society, Clarke never feels ?at home? enough to emerge himself in to Toronto?s way of life. Clarke, contrasting from Staples, never speaks of any public encounters with other members of society; he only speaks of interactions from his past in Barbados. Clarke feels ? a significant part of [his] history and development ended when [he] set foot in Toronto.? This ?rootlessness? is what Clarke feels drives many immigrant youth to violence. Staples, on the other hand, feels that violence is caused by ?the male romance with the power of intimidation.? In an act to overcome this violence consuming him, Staples decides to integrate himself into the world around him. Clarke, however, is blinded by ?the absence of roots and ruins? surrounding him, which prevents him from becoming a part of society. He feels ?hollow,? because the people and environmental features he grew up with are no longer in his life. He decides to ?forget? the city dwellers ?to the detriment of [his] psychical well-being.? Clarke states that this is the reason for his silence and ?[his] reticence, sometimes [his] petulant reticence about things that normally summon passion.? Unlike Staples, who overcomes his rage, and carries on like normal, Clarke exhibits his rage by remaining silent and refusing to become a part of this ?transplanted ?home?.? Because he chooses this solitary lifestyle, he lies awake at night, alone, ?[facing] an institution, because there are no persons, no friends of childhood.? Fortunately, this is nothing like Staples, who ventures out into the world, whistling ?sunny? tunes.
Both Staples? and Clarke?s essays are well written. I was very interested in Staples? first hand experiences in dealing with racism. Although I am saddened by the fact that he has to mould his everyday routine to fit that of society?s, I am very impressed by his attitude towards life and how he chooses to live it. Clarke?s essay presents a totally different outlook on life. His negative outlook on life in Toronto is somewhat depressing. It is difficult to give my opinion on the lives of these authors, for I myself have no idea what their everyday lives are like. However, if I were able to make a suggestion, it would be for Clarke to start experiencing life in Canada. He may meet others, who feel just as ?hollow? as he does, and perhaps, he might even find a new ?river? to call home.
“Just walk on by…” Brent Staples