Rhetorical Analysis – Jorge Estrada

Since the construction of the declaration of independence and the birth of our nation, many minorities, including those who lived within the period of time of its legislation, have felt as if they were stripped and neglected of their human rights. I find it odd that the founding fathers established a society based on the belief and premise that all men are born equal and that all have unalienable rights, which include liberty and the freedom to pursue happiness, but that this did not apply to black people for some strange reason. Whose rights were they talking about? Many blacks and women weren’t accounted for, so for this reason, this statement seems to be very hypocritical. These first ten amendments promise to uphold the freedom of others. Despite the fact that we have laws and other documents attesting to our freedoms, this seems to be misleading as people can’t even protest peacefully without getting tear-gassed and getting shot with pellets.

Tracy K Smith claims that racism and bigotry have victimized her people. She continues to add to her point by stating that her race has been subject to an outpouring of hate. Racism has harmed people’s ability to accept others regardless of color, and as a result, blacks and other minorities face significant discrimination. Sometimes they are excluded from certain facets of life, and each time they stand up for their rights, they are met with violence. For me, it almost seems to be cyclical. For years now, these injustices have been occurring, but there are never meet with the appropriate solutions. Tracey ends the poem by essentially asserting the fact that they never asked to come to the Americas, but instead, they were coerced. They were taken against their own will and taken captive, which goes against every virtue the US upholds, like freedom and liberty. Throughout the poem, Tracey employs certain compositional techniques and rhetorical devices in an effort to make a point. She is able to provide credibility to her poem because she is black. Tracey has experienced this first hand and can really tell us how the majority of Africans feel about this long and lengthy history of abuse and degradation. She has encountered the prejudice that comes with supposedly possessing distinguishable features that make her a different “kind.” Here we see an example of ethos.

She also writes in a linguistic tone that draws out some sort of emotion. Tracey uses a particular set of words that evoke a true sense of sadness, sorrow, and hopelessness. She uses the words destroy, ravaged, plundered, and phrases like “swarms of officers to harass our people” to really express and illustrate the abuse and torment her people experienced. This is an example of pathos. She feels excluded and alienated, and she understands that she will never be fully accepted for who she is because of her skin color even though she lives within a period of time where it is believed that all are eligible to receive unalienable rights and the right to pursue happiness. Tracey’s people are subjected to a never-ending cycle of percussion, as illustrated by her poem, which claims that their continuous cries have only been met by repeated abrasion.

Tracy also splits the poem by inserting dashes and long spaces, which initially confused me, but as I began to dissect and analyze the poem further, I came to the conclusion that she used these techniques to demonstrate that even if there is no content following the sporadic and abrupt dashes, the audience can still fill in the blanks, demonstrating how real the persecution of blacks was and is. Apart from the fact that we can fill that void with historical events, we can also fill it with current happenings in today’s society, demonstrating that the mistreatment of blacks and other minorities is still a widespread issue that affects them in practically every aspect of life. These dashes can also help us envision the frustration they felt each time they were silenced and had their petitions for equality put aside and disregarded. I believe the author intended to utilize the dashes to put the reader through some mental strain, which she succeeded in doing. This abrupt and perplexing manner of punctuation and writing made it difficult for us to read the poem, which serves as a way to symbolize the mental and emotional pressure that all of the slaves experienced when faced with the horrors and realities of slavery.
The persecution of Africans and other minorities is still a prevalent issue and really puts into perspective how long they’ve been contending with this, which is unfair. For decades now, blacks and other minorities have been disproportionately affected; therefore, we must take their side and support them. We must stand with the marginalized and powerless, protect human dignity where it’s been attacked, and serve the common good. The COVID-19 pandemic that has engulfed our world this year has coincided with other crises here in the United States, including but not limited to intensifying certain racial inequities in our society. The pressure caused by the killings of innocent people has also contributed to bringing increased scrutiny of ongoing issues such as police brutality, as demonstrated by the social unrest that has been taking place. For example, the killing of Elijah McClain goes to show our civil liberties can be attacked. His legal rights were being infringed. Unfortunately, many of those who were killed were stereotyped. The lives of these innocent people were taken away for ridiculous reasons. Sadly this sparked many unneeded and unnecessary moments. These officers were never given a legitimate reason or incentive to search or interrogate them, they violated the fourth amendment, but more importantly, they killed innocent people. I believe that it’s important to bring awareness to how stereotypes can prevent us from seeing the truth. They are assumptions and serve as a way to automatically categorize people into groups, which is terrible.

As a community, we must learn to understand the inherited struggles of others. We must change social structures to prevent injustices from occurring. We must place ourselves in the shoes of those suffering to figure out the root of the problem, thus incentivizing us to fight for a comprehensive reform of our society. I truly believe that our denials of solidarity are the result of our privilege and ignorant nature.

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