Brent Staples


Brent Staples’ A Brother’s Murder Essay, Research Paper

Brent Staples’ A Brother’s Murder

A belief I feel very strongly about proposes that all problems faced by

our society have solutions. If this belief is true, why do problems still face

us today? The answer could be a result of either laziness by the people in our

society in finding these solutions or just the fact that there are too many

problems to solve. Maybe this belief I have is too far out of reach to be true.

On the other hand, Brent Staples, a well-respected writer, seems to share this

idea with me. In his works, he displays a great deal of motivation to solve

particular problems faced by society. In “A Brother’s Murder,” he uses a

personal account of murder within the streets caused by social placement to

illustrate the problem within the lower class. After reading this article, I

questioned the stability of our society, and the overall severity of this

problem of murder in the streets.

The inner streets of our nations’ cities have, over the years, proven to

be war zones. Gangs are roaming the streets to protect their territory, making

gunplay an everyday task. The smell of fear, death, and misguided souls reek to

the nose of the onlooker. Brent Staples does an outstanding job of describing

the severity of these problems. His brother, Blake, leads a life molded by this

street life. His official cause of death was murder. However, at the young age

of twenty-two years old, they should have noted his death as a casualty of war.

He played a part in the war of gangs and guns. If he did not live in the inner

streets of Roanoke, Va., he would probably be alive today. In most other parts

of the country, you can have an argument with one of your best friends and not

get killed over it. Blake was shot six time s by a good friend over an argument

about a former girlfriend.

Brent Staples grew up in the same type of atmosphere as his little

brother Blake. As Staples explains in paragraph four of “A Brother’s Murder,” he

chose a different lifestyle. He disagreed with the childish attitude of the

death-ridden people on his street. He chose a path of going to college and

leading a successful career. He was lucky enough and smart enough to leave

those streets. “Upwardly mobile” was how Brent put it. In Blake’s lifestyle

moving up means killing more people to gain social standing within his gang.

Brent took a trip to his brother’s home to intervene with his situation.

What he saw was someone taken over by life on the streets. He was obsessed by

this lifestyle of teetering between life and death, because that was all for

which he had to live. This was clear on the surface, but his own brother could

look deeper. He could see his true human character. Brent saw his brother as a

human being who he cared deeply for and wanted to help. However, when our

society looks at these people killing each other, they see young kids with no

hope and no feelings. I believe this inability to give people a chance is what

cause this instability in our social structure. If everyone could try to make a

difference like Brent did with his brother, we would have more stability in our


After reading this article, I came up with many unanswered questions.

First, I would have like to have seen more detail about the relationship between

Brent and Blake. I feel like this would have added more emotion and detail to

the story. A final question to be discussed is concerning Brent’s actions with

his brother. Could he have done more to save his brother’s life? It took Brent

ten years to go back to his brother to help. Also, was it right of Brent to

shut out his hometown, knowing that this would affect his brother?

Brent Staples’ “A Brother’s Murder” appeared in a 1986 edition of New

York Time Magazine. Brent continues to write editorials regularly for the New

York Times. I had the opportunity to browse through some of his recent articles

at the library. He continues today to write about life in the streets and other

problems with unfound solutions. Brent Staples is a true humanitarian, and with

his articles shows a lot of care in making a change.

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