This is my review of Brent Staples’Black Men in Public Space. I am posting this review and analysis as a journal entry on the assignments I particularly enjoyed reading about while taking my Honours English class.
This piece is a harrowing exposé into the experience of Black men in the United States of America; the micro-aggressions, and implicit bias they repeatedly encounter. My first observation while reading Staples’ piece is that it gloomily shows how Black males—boys, teenagers or university students—are perceived as criminals and aggressors in American society. Whereas, those who they encounter are perceived as victims.
Staples further describes how Blackness is seen as intimidating and threatening to people in the United States. For me, this calls to mind instances of “driving while Black.” Where Blackness meets Whiteness, we often see Whiteness clutching handbags, locking car doors, policing Blackness in neighborhoods, following Blackness around in departments stores, and so on.
Staples’ piece also illustrates how Black men, who may find themselves in respectable occupations, are still perceived by society as criminals and thugs. For example, Staples described how police officers misidentified him as a killer (Staples, 1986). Police officers also held Staples at gunpoint irrespective of his status as a reporter (Staples, 1986). A similar incident happened to Dion Rabouin, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. In the video uploaded to YouTube, we see a police officer arresting Rabouin and commanding him to take a seat. He also threatens Rabouin with a charge of obstruction if he did not comply (Rebel HQ, 2023). In 2020, police in riot gear arrested Omar Jimenez, a Black correspondent for CNN, who was covering the protests in Minneapolis. Despite identifying himself as a reporter and complying with their request, Jimenez was taken into police custody (CNN, 2020). To be fair, Minneapolis police also arrested a CNN producer, who happened to be White.
My last observation is Staples’ attempt at enculturation and assimilation. To read that Staples felt he had to “whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi” (Staples, 1986) to not be perceived as non-threatening is surreal. It cannot be denied that Black Americans often engage in these self-preserving behaviours to provide those in their environment with comfort, so that Blackness can live to see another day.
If you enjoyed reading Review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space, be sure that like, share and comment.
CNN. Police arrest CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and crew on live television. 29 May 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftLzQefpBvM. 19 January 2023.
Rebel HQ. AZ Police Detain Law Abiding Black Reporter. 06 January 2023. YouTube. 19 January 2023.
Staples, Brent. Black Men in Public Spaces. 1986. https://harpers.org/archive/1986/12/black-men-and-public-space/ . 19 January 2023.
U.S. persecution of Black Americans dominate global headlines and we are not even 30 days into the New Year.
The most recent headline is the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who the Scorpion Unit stopped and brutally beat earlier this year. On January 10, Nichols succumbed to his injuries. Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean and Preston Hemphill, were among the officers involved in Nichols death.
Both videos depict two men, Nichols and Anderson, who were both visibly frightened of law enforcement officers and fled. In one video, Nichols can be heard screaming for his mom while five officers punched and kicked him repeatedly. In the other video, Anderson can be heard yelling, “You are trying to George Floyd me.”
There is a debate among Americans as to whether these incidents should be considered acts of racism. CCG Bryson, who is known for his Christian conservative rapping, said “Can someone explain, logically, how 5 black officers killing a black man is white supremacy?” To which, Tariq Nasheed responded, it was the “white supremacist power structure that created that police unit that allocated the resources to them, trained them and incentivize them to go out there and terrorize the black community. That’s 100% white supremacy.” To be sure, prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump said on The Daily Show that “the race of the police officer isn’t the determining factor of whether they’re going to commit excessive use of force. But it is the race of the victim. And it’s often Black and brown people who bear the brunt of police brutality.”
It must be emphasized that American law enforcement officers’ harassment and treatment of Black Americans as suspects, through pedestrian and traffic stops, has been thoroughly researched. A recent study found when police use tactics to gain control in encounters with civilians, such as issuing commands in an aggressive way, it fosters fear and make those encounters less predictable (Pickett, Graham & Cullen, 2022). For instance, an officers’ frightening commands may cause an individual to flee the scene, or result in them being hesitant to leave their vehicles even when officers command them to (Pickett, Graham & Cullen, 2022).
U.S. Persecution of Black Americans Dominate Global Headlines. Will the International Community Step In?
In 2016, the IACHR found U.S. law and practices regarding police killings soared to high levels of impunity (Canada, 2022). As a result, the IACHR urged the U.S. to conduct “exhaustive, impartial, independent, effective and prompt investigations.” Although human rights bodies have repeatedly advised the U.S. to bring its domestic law into compliance with international law and standards on use of force practices, the U.S. has failed to comply (Canada, 2022).
As I mentioned last year, in Bullets of Terror: Staring Down the Second Amendment’s Barrel of Death, the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety does not go far enough, nor does it provide for specific criminal legislation for penalties against race-based policing that often results in death for many Black Americans.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination made clear that police are not free to use any amount of force. Indeed, the CERD stated the brutality and excessive or deadly use of force by law enforcement officials against Black and Latinx Americans, including against unarmed individuals, was deeply concerning. It also was concerned at the persistence of the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement officials in the U.S.
Both the End Racial Profiling Act of 2019 (H.R.4339) and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R.1280) have not made it pass the House. Moreover, U.S. federal and state legislation that regulates the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials is not in accordance with international law and international standards.
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There is a long history of Americans fleeing the U.S. and claiming asylum in other nations. In this article, I will show you 9 Americans granted refugee status.
Here Are 9 Americans Granted Refugee Status
Peter Norwood Duberg
Duberg is one of the first Americans to claim asylum. In the 1950s, Duberg was subjected to an official investigation. He refused to answer the United Nations’ loyalty-related questions and was terminated. For this reason, Duberg fled the U.S. and claimed asylum in Switzerland, who granted the application.
Liberman fled to Israel in 1962 after the U.S. accused of him fraud. While Israel had a law that empowered the Minister of the Interior to exclude individuals with a criminal past, Israel granted Liberman asylum and temporary residents’ visa.
Shakur was Black activist who fled the U.S. after government officials accused her of murdering a state trooper. In 1984, Shakur sought asylum in Cuba, who granted the application.
Lockshin was an American Communist Party activist and cancer researcher who claimed the CIA harassed him because of his political views. He claimed asylum in the Soviet Union in 1986.
Glen Michael Sauter
Sauter was a man who claimed asylum in the Soviet Union. He asserted that he “to hide from U.S. secret services which unfoundedly persecuted him.” While evidence indicates the Soviet Union engaged in practices of persecution, like the U.S. and other countries, there no reliable evidence to suggest it persecuted Lockshin and Sauter. In all, the Soviet Union found both Lockshin and Sauter to be refugees.
Holly Ann Collins
Collins is an American woman who fled the U.S. after the government failed to investigate allegations of domestic violence. Collins alleged the U.S. authorities showed favorable bias towards her husband, who had a large circle of friends and was perceived by most as friendly. In 1997, the Netherlands granted Collins asylum and reasoned that it couldn’t guarantee that the U.S. would protect her.
Chere Lyn Tomayko
Tomayko is an American woman who fled to Costa Rica and was granted asylum on domestic violence grounds.
Christopher Mark Doyon
Doyon is an American who fled the U.S. for acts associated with Anonymous and his support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Mexico granted Doyon’s refugee application.
Edward J. Snowden
Snowden is the most widely known American who claimed asylum against the U.S. government. In 2013, Snowden leaked classified information from the National Security Agency. Snowden feared that the U.S. would persecute him and filed several applications for asylum. He then fled to Russia who granted him permanent residency in 2020. Snowden’s asylum claim promoted a discussion around global surveillance programs, national security, and individual privacy.
These 9 Americans granted refugee status unequivocally demonstrate persecution suffered in the U.S. and raises the broader question: will other Americans flee the nation to seek asylum?
Guns killed 100 Americans in the last 72 hrs. You read correctly. In the last the 3 days, 100 Americans have died by gun violence in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Several significant pieces of gun control legislation have failed in the U.S. Congress over the last few years. For instance, the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act would prohibit the possession of certain ammunition and large capacity ammunition feeding devices. This brings the question back to: is the U.S. really a safe country? In May 2022, Health Data published an article showing the U.S. to be an outlier on gun violence. Nevada, Florida and Texas were just some of the states that had the worst mass shootings since 1991.
Recently, a woman was murdered by a violent partner with a gun, which Twitter user Rudy Owens says has been a consistent outcome of misogynistic violence exacerbated by lax gun laws and their unregulated sale. Cindy Laughlin stated on Twitter, “Another senseless tragedy. A deadly shooting at America’s largest mall right before Christmas. When will this stop?” Earlier this month, four people were found shot and killed at a home near Valley Station, according to WDRB.COM. In December, approximately over 844 people have lost their lives to gun violence. That is approximately 18 Americans dead per day.
Guns Killed 100 Americans in the Last 72 hrs. What Does Science Say?
What is more, 41,000 Americans die from gun violence every year—an average of more than 110 per day, based on data collected by Cliffords Law Center. Furthermore, Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than people in other high-income countries. While U.S. accounts for just 4% of the world’s population, it has 35% of global firearm suicides.
America has the weakest gun laws and the most guns—393 million—of any comparable nation.
Are people persecuted in safe countries? When we think about asylum seekers and the countries that are unable or unwilling to protect them, our thoughts may turn to Shia Hazara families fleeing Taliban violence in Afghanistan. We may think about the arbitrary detention of activists in Damascus by the Syrian Democratic Forces. As we think about what drives a person to flee their country, the Eritrean government’s barbaric acts of torture and its imprisonment of Asmara residents, or the Midgan clans use of female genital mutilation as a political tool to control women in Somalia may also spring to mind.
We may turn to lawyers and human rights experts to gain a better understanding of why militant organisations seeking to establish an Islamic state may arouse fear in political activists. Academic journals, country reports, and case law may also highlight how the inundation of terrorist propaganda in rogue nations can grow to be dangerous for the average national.
Are People Persecuted in Safe Countries?
As we journey away from the transgressions above, imagine that an individual fled their country because members of a criminal organization seek to extort and harm them. Are they entitled to international protection? What if authorities in a country fail to arrest the suspects who repeatedly assault and threaten a member of the LGBTI community? Suppose a student activist fled their country after police racially profiled and assaulted them and the courts refuse to prosecute. Is this a legitimate claim for international protection? What if a whistleblower wrote an academic piece about the human rights conditions in their country because they felt disclosure was in the public’s interest. However, had their act of fearless speech—that stands testimony to wrong—chilled by legal news and academic commentary publications in their country? Let’s assume the publication’s Managing Editor did it to conceal from the public, serious government wrongdoing that ought to be known and deliberated about. Are they entitled to international protection?
If the answer is yes, would it still be if we learned the individual fled Oceania, Europe or North America? Some jurisdictions would argue no, as these nations have a democratic style of leadership. When there is a system of checks and balances and “constitutional guarantees” of due process in place, a country is considered a safe country of origin. To be sure, the European Union’s Directive 2013/32/EU (Annex I) states:
“A country is considered as a safe country of origin where, on the basis of the legal situation, the application of the law within a democratic system and the general political circumstances, it can be shown that there is generally and consistently no persecution as defined in Article 9 of directive 2011/95/EU, no torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and no threat by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict.”
It may be difficult for some to accept this definition, as “consistently” indicates that in every democratic regime case, there is no persecution, torture, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment, nor is there indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict on any occasion. That is a heavy burden for a country to meet, even those with a democratic style of leadership.
If a country contends that its behavior is consistent with every citizen and there are absolutely no forms of persecution on its soil, can we really trust it? Moreover, can we trust the international bodies that believe it too? It is a question that figures prominently in terms of the principle of non-refoulement—the practice of not forcing asylum seekers and refugees to return to a country where they may face persecution.
The ECtHR’s Holding of an American Asylum Seeker
Another question of huge significance is whether the country of asylum participates in wrongdoing committed by the agent of persecution when it imposes an irrebuttable presumption on the claimant not to qualify as a refugee under the Refugee Convention. Miles Jackson explores the idea of attribution in Complicity in International Law, and asserts that countries “cooperate with each other and with non-state actors all the time, often virtuously but sometimes wrongfully.” Indeed, in Goldstein v. Sweden, an American asylum seeker was subjected to systematic police persecution and surveilled after he actively worked to reveal police brutality and other misconduct by the police in the United States. Non-state actors destroyed Goldstein’s property and attacked him with chemical substances. Even though Goldstein’s reports to the police authorities had been to no avail, the Swedish Migration Board decided there was no evidence to show that the United States police authorities had persecuted him and found him “not in need of protection in Sweden.” Goldstein appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Although Sweden breached its international obligation to offer protection, the ECtHR decided the United States could obviate the risk of non-state actors by providing appropriate protection.
Safe Country Nationals Who Flee to Canada
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) reached a similar conclusion in X (Re), 2014 CanLII 88897. In that case, applicants of Roma ethnicity in Hungary asserted Commandos forced themselves into their home and assaulted them. Their children were also assaulted on numerous occasions at school and on the bus. Although the applicants emphasized these attacks were racially motivated, the IRB rejected the appeal on grounds that Hungarian “police are being held accountable for their actions if they fail to take Roma complaints seriously or become agents of persecution of Roma citizens themselves.”
While the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance encouraged Hungary to make further changes to continue its fight against racism, a report showed extensive discriminatory and abusive police practices against Roma. What is more, many of the police officers interviewed in the report admitted to ethnic profiling. If the rule of attribution were applied, Hungary’s inaction would constitute a breach of its positive obligations to take measures to prevent violations committed by non-state actors, an obligation conditioned by a due diligence standard. With regard to Canada, Jackson suggests imposing a correlative duty of non-participation, as it would hold Canada responsible for its own contribution to the wrongdoing.
The presumption that a country is “safe” for all of its citizens has been criticized by NGOs and scholars. EuroMed Rights, AEDH, and FIDH also opposes the notion of “safe countries of origin,” and points to members of minority groups who can face specific discrimination in countries where the rest of the population is generally “safe.” Although the UNHCR likened the presumption to a form of discrimination, when its committees and councils disregard violations committed by state and non-state actors in democratic regimes, and fail to hold these regimes responsible for positive obligation breaches, it acquiesces to such violations.
Should Tribunals be Held Liable for the Use of Irrebuttable Presumptions?
It is not argued here that an applicant who cannot substantiate a risk regarding the lack of state protection should be bestowed Convention Refugee status. The contention is this: when a country of asylum connivingly uses an irrebuttable presumption to withhold international protection—believing a low rate of convictions before human rights tribunals is proof that there are few rights violations in that country—it should be held accountable for its role in the toleration of the private human rights violations. To be sure, Jackson suggests where complicity is found in an international law matter, accomplices must be held responsible for their own acts of contribution to the principal’s wrong.
Take, for example, the case of A. v. Migrationsverket. In that case, the Swedish authorities relied on the rebuttable presumption in the recast Asylum Procedures Directive for procedures based on the safe country of origin concept to withhold international protection from a Serbian national, despite the fact it did not fully implement the concept in legislation. The CJEU held when a Member State has not implemented the concept of a safe country of origin into relevant laws, regulations, and administrative provisions, it cannot reject an asylum application as manifestly unfounded on the grounds that the applicant is from a safe country of origin.
Are People Persecuted in Safe Countries or Are They Economic Migrants?
Lastly, there is a widely circulated claim that asylum seekers from democratic regimes are not “real refugees” but are “economic migrants.” However, this is a charge launched against genuine applicants to degrade them and undermine the rights that emerge from obtaining Convention Refugee status. Many of these asylum seekers bear some of the most powerful passports in the world that enables them to enter countries that have cordially recognized free migration and emigration for purposes of curiosity, trade, or to remain as permanent residents. This observation should demystify the specious argument that asylum seekers from democratic regimes are leveraging incriminating country of origin evidence and fabricated stories so as to enter and remain in a foreign country.
Immigration and refugee law makes clear that the right to asylum is not a right to abreaction. It is a right to have an application for international protection carried out on an individual basis. The most effective way to exercise this right is for the persecuted to leave their country, and to provide evidence that outweighs a general presumption that their country is safe. The country of asylum must adequately examine and consider such evidence. When countries of asylum adopt and enforce administrative edicts based on nationality, they not only suspend this fundamental right, but they also breach their obligation not to discriminate—a precept widely recognized under international anti-discrimination law. In the words of the late Desmond Tutu, to remain neutral in situations of injustice is to be complicit in that injustice.
The World Population Review, an independent organization without political affiliations, reported that the U.S. fell behind Brazil in gun homicides.
On the 19th of November 2022, a man opened fire at Club Q, an LGBT nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The man killed 5 partygoers and injured 17 others. Days later, another man opened fire at a Walmart store in Chesapeake, Virginia, killing 7 patrons and injuring 6 others. The Gun Violence Archive estimates the U.S. has seen a total of 625 mass shootings this year, with approximately 301 American children losing their lives to gun violence.
Failed Gun Control Legislation
The U.S. has failed to pass several significant pieces of legislation that would thwart gun violence in the region. For instance, Prosecuting Gun Crimes Saves Lives Act (“H.R. 1642”) has not advanced from its introductory phase. The purpose of H.R. 1642 would direct the U.S. Attorney General to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Federal firearms offenses. In addition to H.R. 1642, the Declaring Gun Violence a Public Health Crisis (“H.Res.1165”) did not gain bi-partisan support in Congress. This resolution would acknowledge that gun violence in the U.S. is one of the leading cause of death for children and adolescents. Congress’ own website shows the No Backdoor Gun Control Act (H.R. 6817), which would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and remove certain weapons from the definition of firearms for the purposes of the National Firearms Act, failed to make headway.
The U.S. Falls in at No. 2 With the Most Gun Homicides in the World
Sometimes the treatment we encounter in our interactions with society is clear cut. At other times the lines are blurred, which can make it difficult to distinguish whether we are being treated fairly or not. But how do you know if its fair treatment or disparate treatment? This article tells you how.
Fair treatment is when someone behaves towards you in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner. Disparate treatment singles out individuals on the basis of nationality, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
When discriminatory policies affect a particular group of people, but are neutral on their face, this is known as disparate impact. If these policies are race-based (i.e., we only admit ______________) it may trigger both the disparate treatment and the disparate impact ground. When race-based policies are affirmed by institutions and systems this is called institutional racism.
Three tenants have a house pet: T1, T2 and T3. All three have a house pet for a different reason. T1 and T2 reside in Building A with their house pet. T3 resides in Building B with their house pet. T1 babysits their cousin’s house pet and usually brings them over to Building A. When T1 brings over their cousin’s house pet, they bark at T2’s house pet and, vice versa. The cousin’s house pet lives in Building C. Although T1 and the cousin’s house pet get along well now, in the past the cousin’s house pet barked at T1’s house pet, which led to a civil dispute in court.
All three owners have a condition that allows them to have a house pet. While the cousin’s house pet is entitled to visit T1 and their house pet, the cousin does not have a condition that it would allow them to claim ownership of space in Building A. One day, the landlord swaps T1 and T3. The move sparks outrage. T1 alleges the move was discriminatory on the following grounds:
T1 claims the landlord made the swap because it dislikes Poodles.
T1 claims that T3’s house pet is given preferential treatment because T3 breeds dogs for blood sport. In other words, T3 is a dog breeder. The landlord is also a dog breeder.
T1 claims T2’s T-Cup is not really a pet, and therefore, they should have been subjected to the swap instead of T1.
Was the Move Fair Treatment or Disparate Treatment?
While disparate treatment is normally used in the employment context, it is used by way of example. It cannot be denied that the dislike for Poodles may trigger a disparate treatment claim if the landlord expresses this to the Poodle owner. Even when there is evidence of disparate treatment, it is difficult to prove. T1 would need to persuade the landlord to admit that it said they disliked Poodles. In other words, the landlord must go on record saying “I moved you because the Poodle should have the space.” This almost never happens.
It may be the case that all three pet owners are members of a protected class by having a pet. It may also be the case that the landlord is aware of the reasons all have a pet, but not the other tenants.
By moving T1 to Building B with their pet, are they worse off?
T1 must prove they are worse off than T2 and T3 by being in Building B.
T1 must also point to other similarly situated individuals who were treated more favorably and not subject to the same treatment.
Here, T1 points to T2 and T3. Both the conditions of T2 and T3 for having a house pet is not immediately apparent to the general public, although it may be obvious to the landlord, and even some of the tenants. Did the landlord put T1 in a worse off position than they were before? Some examples of being worse off is being moved into a lobby area where there is no privacy for the owner and their house pet or, being forced to live on the streets with their house pet. Another potential example is telling T1 they cannot bring over their cousin’s house pet into Building A. Can T1 demonstrate either of three occurred in their situation?
T1 has not been placed in a lobby area, their house pet has not been ordered to remain in a kettle, nor are the two forced onto the streets. In Building B, T1 has all of what could be offered in Building A. Their cousin’s house pet can also visit Building B, as it did in Building A.
Without being privy to or understanding the reasons as to why T2 and T3 have a pet, it may be difficult for T1 to prove disparate treatment occurred.
What if T1 and T3’s house pets are friendly to one another, but both dislike T2 and their house pet? Both T1 and T3 have evidence that T2 moved from another location where pets engaged in blood sports. In fact, both T1 and T3 know T2 petitioned the Supreme Court of Pet Conduct regarding pet mistreatment, and is a strong advocate against blood sports.
If T1 and T3 conspires to use what they know about T2’s activism to make the environment hostile for T2, and to affect the removal of T2 themselves, is this fair treatment or disparate treatment? Would T2 have a constructive eviction claim?
An informative review of Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete.
This is a Review of Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete?
Angela Davis’ (2003) piece, Are Prisons Obsolete?, is not only an intriguing one but a grim reality of the U.S. prison system. In the piece, this system is referred to as the prison industrial complex given its surpluses of capital, land, labor and state capacity (Davis, 2003, p. 5). The U.S. prison system can be likened to Debra Satz’s ‘theaters of inequality’ theory. First, it is a public or semi-public interaction. It is conceded that many aspects of the prison system are not public. However, as Reed-Sandoval (2015) points out, “one can be an audience member for the theater without personally witnessing it. One need only absorb its damaging effects” (p. 204). Second, domination occurs between at least two “characters” (i.e., the U.S. government/prosecutor/prison official & the suspect/defendant/inmate). Third, as Satz recognizes, the “roles” of the “characters” are systematic (Reed-Sandoval, 2015, p. 205). Here, the incarcerated person is unquestionably dominated by the government and privatized prison officials. Fourth, the U.S. prison system has a history of injustice and bears a resemblance to status inequality (Reed-Sandoval, 2015, p. 205), like slavery, lynching, and segregation (Davis, 2003, p. 9). To be sure, Black people became the prime targets of a developing convict lease system, referred to by many as a reincarnation of slavery (Davis, 2003, p. 11). Last but not least, the prison industrial complex reinforces the very status inequality that brought about the theater of inequality. When viewed in its totality, it is quite clear that the U.S. prison system, in the words of Reed-Sandoval, “perpetuates a vicious cycle of injustice by systematically displaying one group as inferior to and dominated by another” (Reed-Sandoval, 2015, p. 205).
Canada, Q. (2021). Review of Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete? Philosophy 213. The University of Arizona.
Davis, A. (2003). Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press. Reed-Sandoval, A. (2015). Deportations as Theaters of Inequality. Public Affairs Quarterly, 29(2),