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Baldwin’s Discussion Response- Karla Marin

James Baldwin’s “A Report from Occupied Territory” really puts into perspective the Harlem culture in the 1960s and what it meant to be a person of color during that time. To describe the culture of 1960’s Harlem occupied territory Baldwin wrote about the ‘Harlem Six’ case and how the police accused six boys o a murder.

The culture of the Harlem in the 1960s can be easily described as an ‘occupied territory,’ meaning Harlem was under the authority and control of an aggressive armed force, in this case the police. The police treated people of color with no respect and made sure to only serve and protect the white people. Baldwin interestingly wrote, “The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer…to respect the law, in the context in which the American Negro finds himself, is simply to surrender his self-respect.” This shows that the set ‘rules’ in Harlem at this time for people of color were to obey and not question the police, because if they did they would get assaulted or even worse murdered. People of color didn’t feel protected or safe, because the only people the police protected were the whites and “…the police are simply the hired enemies of this population.”

Some questions a fieldworker could ask in this scenario are, what is the main cause for this brutality amongst these people of color? Where’s the justice for all Americans? What are policemen of color, if any, doing to stop this maltreatment? To answer these questions the fieldworker could get an insider perspective, meaning they could interview a resident or past resident of Harlem. Someone who has lived through and witnessed what it meant to be a person of color in Harlem. For example, interviewing the mothers of these boys who were accused of murder or interviewing a cop who patrolled Harlem.

One thought on “Baldwin’s Discussion Response- Karla Marin”

  • Bringing up policemen of color and what they’re role is is a very valid question. I haven’t considered that and would give depth to a fieldworkers analysis of the culture surrounding black-police dynamic.

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