Discussion Post #1
Christiane Campbell 2/15/2020
In “A Report from Occupied Territory” by James Baldwin, the horrors endured by Harlem’s black community from white people and especially white police officers are revealed. He includes first hand accounts of witnesses of police brutality, including Frank Stafford’s who defended the Harlem Six. In Baldwin’s article, shared beliefs within the black community are portrayed and gives idea for suitable questions for a fieldworker to ask to uncover more of the culture being described in the article.
To commence with, three of the shared beliefs in the black community portrayed in the article are the education that black children receive is inferior to the education of white children; the police are the enemy; the police are afraid of black people. The first belief is highlighted when Baldwin states, “the Negro’s education…a segregated education…is but another way of saying that he is taught the habits of inferiority every day that he lives.” This belief is still currently accepted by the black community and proves to ring true through all the articles of today– that are just a quick Google search away– that expose the disparity in quality education in regards to white versus black kids. The second belief is conveyed when he states “And the police are simply hired enemies of this [the black] population.” This belief is still widely accepted by the black community and this is seen with black people’s responding comments such as “the police violate the very rights that they’re supposed to protect” whenever the topic of police brutality is brought up. The third belief is emphasized when he says, “since they [the police] know that they are hated, they are always afraid”. This belief is also widely accepted by the black community and can be observed in social media comment sections discussing police brutality against black people. In some ways, this article is almost a mirror to the black community today.
Subsequently, this article raises questions that field workers can ask to further uncover the culture this article describes. Some of these questions can be, “Knowing that their education was inferior to those of their white counterparts, how did the behavioral dynamic of black kids differ from white kids?”; “In what situations was black hopelessness most evident?”; “In what way(s) did you see black fear of white police officers juxtapose the fear white officers had towards black people?”. These are great questions since they give the person being questioned an opportunity to expand on their answers since the question is open-ended and can give a close look into a popular black mentality. Other sources a fieldworker may use to penetrate the insider perspective are articles, books, and films written by those on the inside– like James Baldwin’s.