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GOLDESSAYS

Right Place, Wrong Face

Article Analysis

The problem of racism in the modern world is still topical because people rely on stereotypes and biases. Alton Fitzgerald White’s article “Right Place, Wrong Face” (2000) is an example of how skin color can be a reason for violent and aggressive actions in seemingly safe and famous neighborhood. A person is powerless in this situation, and, finally, intentions to change something can turn against him/her. This essay explores the idea that White’s illegal incarceration stems from overt racism since the police imprisoned him because of skin color, guided by social stereotypes and discriminative models of behavior.

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The article proves that White has no relation to crime. Moreover, he is a well-educated and intelligent person with good manners, who had believed in law and justice before this incident. It indicates that neither his profession nor personal story could be the reason for the arrest. It is no accident that White mentions the Broadway musical Ragtime, which is a metaphor for his story: “It is a role that requires not only talent but also an honest emotional investment of the morals and lessons I learned as a child” (White). In this sense, it does not matter how much effort a person makes to convince others that skin color does not influence one’s behavior. Moreover, there is such a situation when White’s education and culture contradict the justice he sees. The character cannot understand this paradox and why such things have happened to him, who “was raised to be a gentleman and learned that these qualities would bring me respect” (White). The answer to his confusion is that stereotypes are based on the convenient generalizations that help the police to solve a problem simply and quickly.

The article also shows that the police do not protect its citizens, and they are, in fact, a source of violence and discrimination. It is possible to assume that White was in the wrong place and time, and, as a result, the police suspected him in criminal activity with two Hispanic men. Moreover, he also received a salary that was another impetus for arrest. This false logic leads to the conclusion that White simply is a victim of circumstances and skin color has nothing to do with it. However, there are no accidental things, because there were other black people with White in the prison. The police treated White rudely and aggressively because their perception of this person was based only on skin color, and, therefore, they did not require further explanation. Lewis also tells the story about the 21-year-old black person, who faced a racism scandal in Scotland Yard. The police accused him of past summer riots and brought to a police station, where the following racist remarks were used: “The problem with you is you will always be a nigger (…) you’ll always have black skin. Don’t hide behind your color” (Lewis). This case shows once again that the police applies common stereotypes about black people to establish injustice to innocent people: “I sat in that cell crying silent tears of disappointment and prejudice with the realization of how many innocent black men are convicted for no reason” (Lewis). As for White, he was also a scapegoat since had no relation to the criminal world.

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The police have used the most common stereotypes about blacks as villains, and thus, they decided to imprison White as a potential criminal. The police represent power and authority, and they are the voice of society for many people. Accordingly, this demonstrates how the overall image of a black as members of gangs is created and maintained. Stan Chu Ilo believes that the recent arrests of black men in the United States are the covert continuation of racial violence which stems from from the days of slavery (Ilo). It means that whites still believe they have the indisputable right to treat the Afro-Americans as they wish, ignoring the law and justice. White’s case clearly indicate that to be a black man in the modern society means that one can be hunted on the street without any clarifications. This story reveals a deeper problem which refers to usual social stereotypes that are convenient for many people. The most difficult aspect of the problem is that it is much harder to convince the public that White is a talented and innocent person than that he is related to the criminal life. People have a freedom of choice, but a stereotype cannot be considered as the universal truth because the police should treat all people equally.

In conclusion, White’s story is an example of everyday incidents of stereotypes employed by the police to arrive at the quickest conclusion. In fact, most of the stereotypes are the result of a longtime behavior of white people, who used to consider the Afro-American people as their slaves, and, therefore, were convinced that the latter had no rights and freedom of choice. Hence, white people associate black with the criminal world. It does not matter what social status a black person has since he/she will be treated as a criminal. However, this logic leads to the fact that innocent people are becoming victims of the police, who deal with them inhumanly, using skin color as the only argument. White is an example of this attitude, because his life, in fact, contradicts the social stereotypes but, in the end, the case makes him believe in the opposite. As a result, it causes the opposite reaction among the black population who can no longer trust their lives to the police and the authorities.

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