James Baldwin creates a casual relationship with the audience in the opening two paragraphs. The informal tone builds a relaxed feeling between the author and reader.
In his introduction, Baldwin claims himself as a “commuter” than an “expatriate”. Meaning he travels around the world instead of remaining in a different country. He introduces himself as someone who surrounded himself with knowledge about the subject. In the first sentence, Baldwin uses the word “we”, indicating that he is engaging with the people that are present. This allows the audience to become closer, feel comfortable, and think on the same level. As the paragraph continues, he states his viewpoints on education to a group of teachers, specifically African Americans. Baldwin himself is an African American and relates to the same struggles growing up. Although he is not a teacher, he acts in a position of one.
Baldwin establishes his ethos by describing familiar experiences or events the audience might understand as African Americans. The crucial paradox is education. Baldwin claims that education is influenced by society. He claims the purpose is for a person to make their own decisions in search of their identity. Instead of staying in the lines of others, education allows people to express their opinions and choose their own path. To choose what he himself believes. However, Baldwin states that society is not looking for that type of person. “Societies really want a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society”, claims Baldwin.
The result is to encourage a person to change the rules of society. If this happens, then the citizen will do anything to make the beliefs of education different. Throughout paragraphs three and five, Baldwin appeals to pathos. In paragraph three, an African American who experiences education, in America, ends up with a mental health issue. The African American acts like any other American, pledging to the flag and having the opportunity of becoming president. However, his country reminds him that his past is humiliating, his contribution to civilization was nowhere to be seen. Paragraph four describes a black child’s thoughts. Being a young child is not knowing many things about life.
The child is aware of his parents’ actions and what he’s supposed to do but does not know the reason behind it. Specifically, black children are unaware of their ancestors past until they reach the age of education. Until then does he uncover the truth of his mistreatment. The next paragraph, five, discusses the experience of a child living in the ghetto. His home is located in an undesirable neighborhood, near the pimps and junkies.
The child is aware of his surroundings, but he’s clueless. Ultimately, growing up as an African American is not rainbows and sunshine. African American children are being treated like garbage while a rich kid experiences a better life.
A child is oblivious to why the world is treating him and his family a certain way. In the beginning of paragraph six, Baldwin includes his personal experience. His lines are, “I still remember the first sight of New York”. This adds authorization that Baldwin is a reliable source and allows the audience to know where his point of view comes from. Baldwin isn’t just some regular guy who read articles about this matter, he has personally been through these situations. He continues his experience by stating “it’s very hard to relate yourself to this”, meaning the audience would know what it was like if they were in his shoes. It’s also important to remember that Baldwin is sharing his story with African Americans who could relate to his history.
During paragraphs eight and nine, Baldwin’s use of pronouns connects himself and others who have been in the same situation. This emphasizes that he is not the only person who thinks about the value of education. He delivers this speech to a group of African Americans who each have different stories and perspectives. There are millions of people worldwide who deal with this issue every day and some don’t even know why it’s happening. Baldwin stresses how the child can be aware of his surroundings and decide if it’s for him or someone else. Baldwin’s perspective on history is reliable, but it is one perspective out of millions of African Americans. He describes how he lived throughout his childhood and others as well. As for providing historical evidence, Baldwin refers to the era of Reconstruction and the Depression of the 1930s.
He declares that during the era of Reconstruction, freedom was not declared. During the 1930s, years later, no changes were made between African Americans and white workers. These documentations supports his argument by describing events where African Americans were discriminated back in the day.
Even after a hundred years later, people still don’t realize everyone is the same no matter what skin color they are. Society has not changed its mindset of African Americans. The word “nigger” is a racial slur used towards African Americans. Baldwin includes this term to show how the world labeled black people. Non-blacks were going around using this slur to innocent black people for no reason. It is a word that engraves a horrid mark on an African American. Being called a racial slur constantly is not a pleasant feeling, especially when it’s unnecessary. If a less provocative term was used, “negro”, it would not be as effective and meaningful.
The term “negro”, is a less offensive word towards black people. It would not remind African Americans of the horrific times they were called “nigger”. By stating “What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors”, means the actions of one’s ancestors defines who one is today. Back in the day, immigrants traveled to America in search of their “American dream”. They leave their old life behind to begin fresh. However, it was not as easy as it sounded. On the other hand, white people did not have to face as many struggles as black people. White people were not called racial slurs, they weren’t called racial slurs, and they weren’t as friendly as they should’ve been.
In history, children are taught how heroic white people “discovered” America, while black people were slaves. The false statement is describing the white people as “heroic” because they did not discover America. The addition of the two sentence paragraph adds a break, a pause in thought for the reader and audience. It is sandwiched in between two long paragraphs to emphasize the importance of the Bible reference.
The Bible reference also provides further evidence of how people today, are intimidated by “lack of vision”. The vision people are lacking is God’s vision of the world. Go envisions a society where people treat each other equally.
However, if this does not happen, then the world will be filled with violence. Baldwin highlights the fact that people need to treat others equally in order to create peace. Throughout the last paragraph, Baldwin repeats the phrase “I would”.
This technique, anaphora, engages the audience to what the speaker is trying to say. The repetition floods the audience’s mind, forcing them to remember what Baldwin wants to try. He indicates how he would try to teach children to face all of the struggles with knowledge. Instead of growing up, obeying rules with an unknown meaning, Baldwin urges to educate them. The repetition also expresses how eager Baldwin wants to try. Baldwin appeals to logos throughout the whole speech. He is constantly making connections with history, the Bible, and his own experiences. The Biblical reference is most important because it is the word of the God, the person who believes in equality.
On a topic about equality, using reliable and relevant sources causes the audience to believe in the claim. The overall tone Baldwin uses in the speech would be passionate and sophisticated. He devoted his time to express his feeling about education on African Americans and wanted to spread his message. For instance, Without making the speech difficult to understand, Baldwin includes references that every African American can relate to.