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Rhetorical Analysis Strategies in “The New Jim Crow”

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Throughout “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, we see how the author uses claims and evidence as well as rhetorical strategies to make different appeals to the audience. This educational text serves the purpose of providing information to white individuals who aren’t familiar with the criminal justice system, which works to force blacks into literal cages and this is mentioned throughout the article. It also appeals to those who believe that they and their children won’t face the risk of incarceration. Michelle Alexander gives people a sense of what it’s like to deal with these issues and brings to light how damaging it could be to the black community. Claims and evidence serve the purpose of making this concept of mass incarceration more understandable for the attended viewers, emphasizing the importance of different ideas and providing the necessary evidence to make the claim credible. Cause and effect, description and imagery, and exemplification are some of the key elements used in this article to develop a pathos appeal, which deals with the emotions of the audience.

One claim the author makes within this article is that the majority of young black men are being controlled by the criminal justice system, which marks them as a criminal for the rest of their lives. Nowadays, it is normal to label blacks as criminals and as the author stated, “As normal as separate water fountains were just a half century ago.” Later on in the passage, Alexander uses the example of Chicago to provide evidence for her claim. She did so by including statistical information about the black male population with a felony found on page 744, “55 percent of the black adult male population and an astonishing 80 percent of the adult black male workplace in the Chicago area.” This evidence proves that black males are trapped underneath the criminal justice system via the total population of black males in Chicago with a felony. To provide further proof for her claim, Alexander decides to

Throughout “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, we see how the author uses claims and evidence as well as rhetorical strategies to make different appeals to the audience. This educational text serves the purpose of providing information to white individuals who aren’t familiar with the criminal justice system, which works to force blacks into literal cages and this is mentioned throughout the article. It also appeals to those who believe that they and their children won’t face the risk of incarceration. Michelle Alexander gives people a sense of what it’s like to deal with these issues and brings to light how damaging it could be to the black community. Claims and evidence serve the purpose of making this concept of mass incarceration more understandable for the attended viewers, emphasizing the importance of different ideas and providing the necessary evidence to make the claim credible. Cause and effect, description and imagery, and exemplification are some of the key elements used in this article to develop a pathos appeal, which deals with the emotions of the audience.

One claim the author makes within this article is that the majority of young black men are being controlled by the criminal justice system, which marks them as a criminal for the rest of their lives. Nowadays, it is normal to label blacks as criminals and as the author stated, “As normal as separate water fountains were just a half century ago.” Later on in the passage, Alexander uses the example of Chicago to provide evidence for her claim. She did so by including statistical information about the black male population with a felony found on page 744, “55 percent of the black adult male population and an astonishing 80 percent of the adult black male workplace in the Chicago area.” This evidence proves that black males are trapped underneath the criminal justice system via the total population of black males in Chicago with a felony. To provide further proof for her claim, Alexander decides to add more statistical evidence, but this time with the ratio of black men who attend college versus those who go to prison. She stated near the beginning of page 746, “Just 992 black men received a bachelor’s degree from Illinois state universities in 1999, while roughly 7,000 black men were released from the state prison system the following year just for drug offense.” Again we are given credible information that young black men are being targeted by the criminal justice system, but this time with a different approach. The evidence we are given can be portrayed as trustworthy and credible for the author’s initial claim.

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Moreover, Alexander’s second claim is about the design of the current caste system. Under the subheading “Mapping the Parallels”, she emphasizes that mass incarceration, the original Jim Crow laws and slavery share similarities, she deliberately mentioned a “profound sense of deja vu” that they all have in common. Although these instances happened in different time eras and they are divergent in many ways, there are far too many factors that share similar characteristics between these issues. Some evidence behind this claim is the racial stigma that’s produced because of the discrimination being prompted by the racial undercaste. Within the same subheading on page 746 we are provided with information regarding the similarities between these three different issues, “Slavery defined what it meant to be black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be black (a second-class citizen). Today mass incarceration defines the meaning of blackness in American.” From slavery to the Jim Crow laws, and now with mass incarceration we see that all of these issues serve the purpose of what it means to be black in America and also allows for legal discrimination against this racial group. The author is making the audience aware of the fact that although we have progressed into a new era, blacks are still branded with a racial stigma, and for mass incarceration today that racial stigma is defined as black equals criminal.

Along with claims and evidence we see how Michelle Alexander targets the audience from a different angle, which causes emotional triggers. Usage of the pathos appeal along with rhetorical strategies is seen throughout this article and there are many examples provided that can make an impact on the readers. One rhetorical strategy that is involved in this text is cause and effect. On page 739, Alexander mentioned the cause, “Majority of young black men in many large urban areas are currently under the control of the criminal justice system.” This quote leads to the effect, these black men lack the title of being a good father and are unable to provide for their children because they are confined in prisons. From the cause and effect example, we see how the usage of mass incarceration breaks apart families, this particular scenario has the potential to affect the audience’s emotions. Most people have families so they are able to sympathize, to a certain extent, with those who are dealing with this issue.

To form a second rhetorical strategy, Alexander uses description and imagery. This strategy is defined as painting an illustration for the audience, which contributes to the pathos appeal. Throughout the article, we see that Alexander often refers to cages as prisons, and overall constructs sentences in a way that gives off a powerful meaning. When she refers to the prisons as cages it gives off the impression that blacks who are affected by mass incarceration face the process of having their humanity ripped away from them and are forced to reside in a small area for a set amount of time. A specific example of how Alexander frames a statement in a robust manner is found on page 746 which says, “The young men who go to prison rather than college face a lifetime of closed doors, discrimination, and ostracism.” The lifetime of closed doors phrase is something that stands out, the audience is provided with the tragedy these young black individuals are faced with. Prison corrupts their lives, limits their freedom, as well as forcing them to deal with the negativity induced by society for the rest of their lives. Description and imagery used within the text can convey deep meaning and have an emotional toll on those reading this passage.

A third rhetorical strategy used in the passage that supports the pathos appeal is exemplification. On page 748, there is a quote said by a student from the See Forever charter school, “We can be perfect, perfect, doing everything right and still they treat us like dogs. No, worse than dogs, because criminals are treated worse than dogs.” This statement attempts to make the audience feel sympathy for what’s going on, it’s helping them to see that blacks are dehumanized and have all of their freedom completely stripped away. Something else that can make the audience feel sympathy for this text is that fact that this quote came from a student. Parents are able to picture their kids in this position and come to the realization that what’s going on isn’t right, students who aren’t currently in this position can also do the same thing. This strategy functions within the text in a way that provides an emotional appeal and a vital point within the text.

In all, claims and evidence, as well as rhetorical strategies, play a role in having an impact on the audience’s emotions and how they will interpret certain parts of an article. We reviewed how Michelle Alexander uses cause and effect, description and imagery, as well as exemplification, to build up the pathos appeal. From all the examples provided, we analyzed how information within the text made certain points more understandable for the audience to read, provided a sense of sympathy to draw emotion out of them and emphasized major claims. Claims about the criminal justice system and how it’s designed to keep blacks locked in cages, along with information about how it affects that certain community is proved with evidence provided throughout this article. Members of the black community, especially black men, are forced to reside in confinement over minor offenses. Their lives are ruined, they are dehumanized, the freedom they once had is gone and to top it all off they are forcefully separated from their families.

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Rhetorical Analysis Strategies in “The New Jim Crow”. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-the-new-jim-crow-by-michelle-alexander/
“Rhetorical Analysis Strategies in “The New Jim Crow”.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-the-new-jim-crow-by-michelle-alexander/
Rhetorical Analysis Strategies in “The New Jim Crow”. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-the-new-jim-crow-by-michelle-alexander/> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
Rhetorical Analysis Strategies in “The New Jim Crow” [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-the-new-jim-crow-by-michelle-alexander/
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