“A Report from Occupied Territory” by James Baldwin- Discussion Post #1
James Baldwin’s essay “A report from unoccupied territory” discusses violence and police brutality in Harlem during the 1960s. The essay includes multiple narratives of the power dynamic between police officers and the public as well as a critique of the education taught to black and brown people nationwide. The narratives mentioned in the essay shared common beliefs and experiences. A common belief shared by Harlem residents was that the “No knock, stop and frisk” laws– that violated their fourth amendment — was placed with intention to suppress black bodies. Another shared belief that Baldwin mentions in his essay is that Harlem believes that the “Harlem Six” is not guilty of the crime they have been convicted of. Baldwin uses words like “ghetto” and “abolitionist” to demonstrate his identity as an insider.
If a fieldworker was looking at Harlem, they would ask numerous questions. What is the socioeconomic dynamic of the community in Harlem? How are convicts treated based on their race? Inequalities in prison sentences? How has the policing of the Harlem community impacted its residents? What laws are most used in Harlem in comparison to other neighborhoods? A fieldworker looking to uncover the culture of Harlem would have to think about their own identity and acknowledge any cultural differences and investigate any similarities. To investigate the culture and develop an understanding, a fieldworker must also look at the dynamic in the city. How policed are white neighborhood compared to black neighborhoods? And is the quality of education different based on what the race of the student body is? As well as insider narratives, a fieldworker must use outsiders and the police officers to penetrate the insider’s perspective. Outsiders may include lobbyists and any higher-ups that have an influence on the community.
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