Response to “A Report from Occupied Territory” by James Baldwin
In Baldwin’s essay readers are introduced to a variety of cultural information, such as when the older man (Fecundo Acion) called a policeman ‘sir’ in order to show him respect. In this readers see that there is a certain respect for policemen, and yet they betrayed that respect by beating him for asking questions. Another piece of cultural information we see is the visibility of cops in the community which Baldwin says makes Harlem more of occupied territory than anything else. Therefore exposing the reader to the fact that there is high tension in the community already with all these men carrying guns, and abusing their powers as though they were gods. Some questions fieldworkers may ask to further uncover the culture the article describes include but are not limited to: “Why aren’t the cops put under surveillance like people of color are?”, “how many times has this happened before?”, “will this happen again?”, “is the tension between whites and people of color still high? And will it ever get better?” and there are so many more questions. Some information a fieldworker may need to penetrate the insider perspective is to ask other informants about their experience in Harlem, whether it is good or bad. They should also collect information on all fronts; whites, people of color, and cops to see how their experiences differ. Most importantly they should remain nonbias when they collect this information, and although one group may be more in the right than the other at the end of the day fieldworkers are only here to collect the history of human experience. Finally, to answer one of the questions I asked (will this happen again?) as though I were a fieldworker myself, when reading Baldwin’s report I thought the story took place recently until I read the date so that question pretty much answers itself.