“A Report from Occupied Territory” Response

In the essay “A Report from Occupied Territory” by James Baldwin he writes about Harlem during the 1960’s, in particular describes the case of The Harlem Six to try and give insight of the meaning of Harlem being a “occupied territory”. Baldwin describes a young salesman named Frank Stafford who wanted to know why the police were beating up the children resulting in him getting beaten and arrested. The cultural information this article is included through the experiences that residents in Harlem have to face. Whether it is the police brutality or the larger experience of segregation, it is not unique to Harlem. Baldwin points out that what is true of Harlem is true with every city with a large African American population. In these places the police ‘are simply the hired enemies of this population’. The police violate cultural information such as rules from the fourth amendment and the right to a fair trial that are common ideas with the residents of Harlem. The laws that are placed to protect black people are meant “to be my servant and not my master… to respect the law, in the context in which the American Negro finds himself, is simply to surrender his self-respect.” Baldwin notes that automation has rendered many people jobless and no solution to deal with the increasing unemployment rate has been given. Their present to keep the Negro in his place and to protect white business interests/ the white supremacy.

Fieldworkers will have to offer an insiders’ perspectives along with your own to translate the cultural data into ethnographic text. A fieldworker would have to adapt to non-biasedly look at the multiple perspectives of the people of Harlem. A fieldworker will also look at other sources of information that are part of the culture such as the police department.

  • Questions a fieldworker would ask to uncover the culture of the article is:
  • Who are the people living in Harlem ? What are the socioeconomic factors for those in “occupied territories” that are putting them at an disadvantage ?
  • How do police officers act in Harlem versus other outside areas of Harlem? How would a police officer engage a black person versus a white person?
  • What is the difference between a “Bad” Negro and a “Good” Negro? What are the set requirements that makes one a “Bad” Negro? How are the Bad and good Negro treated differently?

Comment ( 1 )

  1. Sharon Leal
    Hey Iqra! I really like how your response sums up the reading and your thoughts and I also agree that Harlem has gone through a lot, and the heavy policing of black people by 'dominant' white men is infuriating, especially when it was shown that simply asking a question can result in beatings. Your question on socioeconomic factors is quite interesting because I do believe if black people live in a higher income neighborhood then their experiences might not be so different, my take from the reading was that officers are possible passing down a ritual or behavior of just over-policing black communities and people which might lead to unjust treatment, based solely on skin color.

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