Baldwin Response (Max Garcia)

James Baldwin’s “A Report from Occupied Territory” is a stunning article about police brutality in 1960s Harlem, as well as race riots in the area, and the aftermath of those events. Baldwin starts off the article by telling the story of Frank Stafford, a 31 Puerto Rican man who was accosted by the police; receiving a beating that resulted in the loss of a eye. Receiving said beating because he asked why the police were beating up two young boys. I believe Baldwin puts this information in here so early in the article so that all readers would be able to comprehend the harsh reality that the people of Harlem already knew.

The police were abusing their power and regularly used excessive force while dealing with the residents of the area whom they considered to be, in a direct quote, “animals.” Baldwin goes on to state that Stafford upon losing his eye, did not attempt to seek justice. He did not attempt to seek justice for his eye, even though it was clear that had the doctors at Harlem Hospital given him the care he needed, his eye might have been saved. That in itself says a lot about the culture that had been created in Harlem in this time period. Mr. Stafford knew that any attempt he made to get justice for himself, might’ve led to further violence from the police due to his newfound reputation as a “cop hater”

Having read all this information, a field worker should ask the people in the community the following questions to get to further understand the culture that Baldwin describes. “Have you had an encounter with law enforcement that has ended with them using excessive force?” “Do you think the police are violent?” “Do you think the police are racist/discriminatory towards your community” And so on in order to further understand the dynamic between the community and the police.

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