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The Rhetorical Analysis of Just Walk on by

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As a famous American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman, Frederick Douglass, once stated, “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.” In his article ‘Just Walk on By’, New York Times writer and publication author Brent Staples communicates his views on how black men are casualties of prejudice. Staples further supports his case by portraying his own records with bias. He depicts individuals in the open making an effort to avoid him because of his physical features. Further into the article, he depicts society treating him like a criminal after merely seeing him. Additionally, he states this is a regular encounter for black men. The author’s purpose is to illuminate people that prejudice is still very real in the U.S. in order to change society’s observation on black men. Despite Staples’ article appearing in Ms. Magazine in 1986, which in turn made the audience predominantly white liberal women, they agree that racial bias is still alive. Staples’ contention and cases made all through the article were able to support his thesis through the use of metaphorical language, personal anecdotes, and the appeal to pathos.

Staples uses figurative language to keep the audience at ease and convey a sense of comfort. The first sentence of the article, Staples states, “My first victim was a woman …” (Staples) Through this ironic statement, he is expressing to the audience how ridiculous racial bias can be. By playing into the stereotype, Staples is grabbing the audience’s attention, which works beautifully since the article is written for women. The author also uses a comedic comparison in the very last sentence by writing, “It is my equivalent to the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country.” (Staples) With comparing himself to bear, Staples is expressing how society contrasted black men to a vicious animal. Not only does he use figurative language, the author also narrates specific experiences of his personal life to support his thesis.

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Staples uses personal anecdotes all throughout his essay to show his experiences with racial prejudice, which supports his purpose. In the second paragraph, he describes his first year at the University of Chicago and how he realized he gain “the ability to alter public space in ugly ways.” (Staples) With this newfound ability, he was labeled as a criminal whenever he walked the halls. This anecdote works great as the first experience in the article because it helps the audience understand the severity of being stereotyped. Staples also considers his own experience, similar to the spot he was raised in and how he was not really noticeable “against the backdrop of gang warfare and street murders”. This contextual proof that Staples chose to pass on to the audience uncovers how prosperous and motivated he was to achieve success throughout everyday life. Adding this information acknowledges the black stereotype which in turn improves the believability of this paper as well as improves the trust that readers have for what he is stating. Staples also uses pathos to strengthen his stories.

The author appeals to the audience’s emotions in order to reinforce his personal stories. For example, he says that ‘It was in the echo of that terrified woman’s footfalls, that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I had come into” (Staples). This is a prime case of how Staples starts to draw the feelings of the reader in light of the fact that he takes note of everyone in these incidents are transpiring just as a result of his skin color. All through the paper, the author viably figures out how to draw a kind of liable sensation from the audience, which is crucial to increasing an enthusiastic reaction and just as guaranteeing his worries are dealt with. He also expresses that ‘I grew accustomed to but never comfortable’ (Staples). This is the most critical explanation he makes in the whole article, since it makes the reader feel the blame by one way or another. In turn, they are placing themselves in a similar circumstance as the author. Basically, Staples can adequately utilize a scope of feelings to interest sentiment, which thusly causes him accomplish his general objective of making the group of spectators see the degrees of bigotry in open spaces that still exist to date.

Staples’ arguments through the article were able to support his premise through the use of figurative language, personal anecdotes, and appealing to the audience’s emotions. In the very beginning and in the end, the author uses comical, figurative speech in order to portray how absurd prejudices can be. He also delves into his personal life, showing the audience how racial bias can affect one’s daily life. These anecdotes appeal to the reader’s emotions by making them feel empathy toward him. Through all three strategies, he achieved his goal of causing the crowd to perceive the way that regardless of what the general public cases, racial stereotyping and separation is as yet alive nowadays, and that it has turned into a piece of life for a great many people.

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