Is the Black Lives Matter movementa civil rights movement that is worth of respect, or is it really just ananti-police movement that ought to be called out for its connection toviolence? The controversial Black Lives Matter (BLM) group was founded afterthe infamous Trayvon Martin killing in 2012. It was a response to what manyblack people in the U.
S. felt was an instance of racial profiling andunnecessary violence committed against an unarmed black teenager that ended upin his death. The BLM began with aplatform of creating awareness about the rash of killings of black men, and thefounders of the movement cited that BLM was created to address the systematicinjustices against all blacks in the United States. However, the BLM stimulatedgreat anti-police sentiment, and BLM activists were connected to the attacksand murders on many innocent policemen around the country. An essay by WesleyanUniversity student Bryan Stascavage in the college newspaper, used thecontroversial BLM movement as a theme for his opinion essay. Titled Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think,this essay offers a good example of many elements of the rhetoricalsituation, especially the use of the persuasive tools pathos and ethos thathelp develop his thesis. Several of themain concepts to consider in any rhetorical situation are the following:exigence, rhetor, and audience. In the analysis of ‘Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think’, the exigence is defined as the reason why thearticle or essay was written.
The reason could be a reaction to almostanything, such as another written piece, or a current or past event occurringin the world. The concept of exigence can be thought of as the reason therhetor, or author, felt the urge to write the opinion. The rhetor, BryanStascavage, a student from Wesleyan University, wrote an opinion essay. Theexigence calling the rhetor’s response was a series of attacks on innocentpolicemen around the country that were linked to the BLM movement.
The rhetorStascavage develops his argument in this order. First, he sets up the situationhe wishes to address. There is a growing hostility between the BLM movement andthe police. He states that he understands why BLM movement was founded. Herecognizes many instances of racism and violence directed towards blacks. Hethen gives evidence of the disrespectable incidents are occurring today at thehands of BLM. He points out the difference between the original BLM platform ofracial equality achieved through respected means vs. achieving it throughviolence and murder.
He questions whether the BLM is a respectableorganization? The rhetor is therefore asserting that the BLM movement has lostcredibility with the rhetor for being connected to the killings of innocentpolice. In fact, the whole movement has lost his respect. He wonders how canyou respect any type or person or organization who promotes violence and themurders of innocent people, and especially the killing of innocent policemenwho are trying to serve and protect the community? The rhetor’s conclusion isthat BLM movement will not survive long enough to achieve its equality platformif they resort to violence and murder. He finishes his essay by asking whetherthe BLM movement needs to rethink its platform to stop the perpetuationviolence in our communities.
It is clear to theaudience that Stascavage is critical of the BLM movement. However, at the sametime that he also gives respect to what the movement is trying to achieve dueto racism and discrimination the black community has faced historically. Theuse of these counter points, which give credit to the mission of the BLM, make his argument more effective becausehe does not appear to be unsympathetic of all the challenges black andminorities have faced. He is trying to point to say that he understands thegrievance of the BLM, but that it is never acceptable to resort to violence.
This statement is very reasonable, and will likely succeed at gaining most ofthe audiences’ approval. Stascavage uses the standard tools of persuasionin his essay, which in the rhetorical situation typically include ethos, logosand pathos. He uses pathos and logos mainly, since as a student writer it isunlikely he has much notoriety in his community. Qualities that help toestablish ethos, or the writer’s credibility, include that of technical orpolitical expertise, history of trustworthiness in the public eye, or holding aposition of authority in society. Outside of his local university community, hewould have virtually no notoriety and therefore little credibility as anexpert. However, his use of pathos is abundant. Pathos is a tool used in therhetorical situation to convince the reader or audience, but instead of relyingon credibility like ethos, it persuades by tapping into the reader’s emotions.Pathos is powerful because it can successfully connect the writer and theaudience.
Pathos may move the audience to act on their emotions. Various waysto evoke pathos include telling stories with descriptiv.e words, usingemotional themes and words, or even using comedy. Stascavage uses pathosthroughout his essay. He gives many examples of instances of race relationsgone violent, like BLM exremists’ attacks against police, as well as numerousviolent attacks by whites on blacks. Whatever side of things the reader is on, therhetors used of these emotionally charged incidents draw the reader in to hismain point, which is that violence is not an answer in changing society. Stascavagealso relies on the tool of logic, or logos, in his rhetorical situation.
Logosis a powerful tool of persuasion, especially for certain types of audiencemembers. Since he is speaking to an academic community, it makes sense thatlogos would be effective. He uses logic to connect cause and effect. Forinstance, the cause of the BLM movement is perception of injustice, and thebirth of the movement. He also shows the cause of violence to be either racist whites,or BLM extremists, and the result to be violence and a breaking down of societyrelations