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“A Report from Occupied Territory” by James Baldwin

Posted by Joshua Martinez Perez on

In the essay “A Report from Occupied Territory,” written by James Baldwin, illustrates life in Harlem in the 1960s, where police brutality and discrimination took place against this community that is mostly conformed by black individuals. James Baldwin illustrates some behaviors that are present in this culture which is the absolute fear of police in this community. In one of the cases, one fellow got beaten while asking why the police brutalizes youngsters. Another example of unjust judging was when six youngsters – the “Harlem Six” – were incarcerated unjustly for the murder of a couple. In this community or culture, there is insider phrasing used against the people that live within it. Because of these past events, the shared believe within that community is that the police do not serve all people, and that they are just prejudiced savages.

To penetrate the insider perspective the fieldworker must visit the community and not only see what is happening currently but how these events and behaviors evolved. Also, some questions a fieldworker might ask is how the residents feel about the neighborhood current situations regarding justice and how the rising generations react to prior conflicts withing the community. And, how they think problems such as police brutality might impact their families. In summary, in front of problems like the ones explained in the prior paragraph, for a fieldworker to get a stronger insider perspective, they must go to families that have been affected by these experiences. How would people find a possible solution to this kind of issue?


Informant Description

Posted by Christiane C. Campbell on

Christiane Campbell                                                                                                       2/12/2020

CCNY ENGL 21002 | Prof. Shamecca Harris

Informant Description 

         The pseudonym I will be using for the person I am interviewing is “Marcia”. They are a cisgender, heterosexual female. She is nearly 18 and is White with an Albanian background. The chosen topic is Islam. This topic was chosen because I am interested in Islam and she is Muslim. I was especially interested in the general principles of Islam, such as there being an engagement period to get to know a person further instead of just dating; modesty is another important concept included in the Islamic faith that I was interested in. To my surprise, Marcia does not follow the majority of Islamic principles; this is majorly due to the general attitude in Albania towards Islam. According to Marcia, most Albanians are Muslim, but are very loose in the way they practice the religion. This is a stark contrast to other countries of the world such as Iran, where Islam is practiced in a much more conservative way. For example, mentioned earlier in this informant description is how there is an engagement period practiced by Muslims where they get to know a person beyond the friendship level. The reason for this is that boyfriend-girlfirend relationships are not permitted in Islam. However, Marica says that despite being Muslim, she and other Albanian Muslims that she knows do not follow this. For them, it’s more about being romantically involved with the right person the first time instead of being romantically involved with multiple people (like the typical person) over the period of your life. As a result of this, Marcia agrees that there is a pressure to get your love life right the first time. Another concept I mentioned that is important to Islam is modesty. In this religion, it is widely accepted that you are not supposed to show a lot of skin and in many cases you are to wear a headscarf (a hijab, in this case). Marcia and the majority of Albanian Muslims wear clothes that expose a substantial amount of skin, such as shorts and also do not wear the hijab. Overall, I was extremely surprised to learn that there are liberal Muslims and that Albanian culture is the reason that Islam is practiced with little to no conservatism there. However, I feel I should not have been surprised because there are liberal participants of every faith and culture is an influence in every country to how a religion is practiced there.


A Report from Occupied Territory – Emma Fournier

Posted by Emma Fournier on

James Baldwin reports on the appalling treatment of ‘non-white’ groups, or people of color, “…which is also a plea for the recognition of our common humanity”.  This article includes varying cultural perspectives of the 1960s, and the two most emphasized are those of the black community and those of white policemen.  Some cultural information within the black community includes slight indicators within their language usage (such as the use of the word “axe” instead of asked).  I appreciated that Baldwin chose to retain these nuances within his piece not only for the mere sake of accuracy, but also to solidify the integrity of others’ words.  Another piece of cultural information is within their behaviors.  The way in which they felt they must carry themselves in order to be cooperative was (and remains today) extremely restrictive and precautionary so as not to draw attention to oneself or create conflict.  The feeling of living in “occupied territory” sculpts the majority of their behaviors and consequently becomes an unavoidable aspect of their culture, being constantly surrounded by and fearful of the intimidating presence of racist white policemen.  The negatively impactful culture of these forces is apparent not only in their disgusting privilege and views, but the sheer brutality that those perspectives breed.  Their blatant abuse of authority and complete disregard for ‘the other’ as human creates an ignorant, heinous culture in which they possess no remorse.  These white supremacists consider people of color as savages when in fact, that is who they are.

As outrageous as it is that this event occurred more than five decades ago and cannot be undone, we must still consider what might have been done in order to continue improving our society today.  There is a multitude of unasked and unanswered questions regarding this particular circumstance, in which a fieldworker might ask to further uncover the culture that this article describes.  A more obvious question may be to ask the policemen, “Why do you view yourself as superior to people who are ‘different’ than you?”, or “How do you feel before, during, and/or after you treat others in this manner?”.  On the other side, they may question the innocent group by asking, “As a minority, what do you do to avoid conflict?”, or “What do you think should be done to advocate for these victims?”.  There are innumerable possibilities of inquiry to gain a better understanding of both parties’ perspectives and to grasp how each culture is shaped.

In order to more accurately understand the insider perspective, we must also consider other factors beyond these informants’ contributions.  A fieldworker might also speak to communities just blocks away from the area to apprehend any differences and, if there are any, why?  They could ask a nearby largely white community, “Is your neighborhood heavily monitored by the police?”, or “What does the police activity look like from your perspective?”.  Any additional information would colossally impact the awareness and comprehension of how these situations come about and are perceived.


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Posted by Abigail Banton on

After reding the article, I believe that the culture that was included urban culture. This culture includes minorities, (any person who does not identify as white). Along with being minorities, the culture described are people who dwell in the inner cities. Within the people in the Urban culture, there are a lot of the shared beliefs and behaviors exhibited. Although it is sad, one major shared belief is that the police were a force against people of color. People of color back then believed that the police have a vendetta against them and if you ask people of color today how they feel, it is scary to hear how much they believe the same thing to this day. Something that I noticed while reading James Baldwins article was the fact that the word “Negro,” was a term loosely used to describe black people. To call a black person a “Negro” was the norm which is obviously not acceptable currently. A known behavior of black people back in those times were to shelter themselves in a way. For example, if something was happening to a black person involving the police, other black people tend to run away or close their doors and turn their backs. This is because black people didn’t want to reap the repercussions of trying to help their own. Police officers would assault everyone and anyone who got in their way. In the end, the overall article made me really think about how black people lived back then and how we live right now and what I concluded is what scares me the most.

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