Sexism, racism, and stereotypes — these elements tend to be thought as practically extinct in our society today. But Brent Staples objects otherwise through his cogent statement. In his article “Black Men and Public Space,” Staples uses ethos, pathos, and diction to prove his point that even nowadays, black men tend to be — and for a long time, have endured as — disadvantaged people because of their sex and ethnicity.
First, Brent Staples applies a layer of ethos to prove his point. His fourth paragraph protests in vain that he could not possibly hurt another human, as he describes himself as, “a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken.” (?2) He shines light on the utter irony of how an innocent black man could be mistaken a mugger or a rapist, when he might be the most peaceful man in the world. His use of ethos forces upon the realization of the wrongness for somebody to be stereotype based on skin color or otherwise. The use of ethos can also be seen when Staples described one of his experiences while working at a magazine office in Chicago, unfairly mistaken as a burglar. By carefully using words that questioned the morality of stereotyping, Staples gets his point across with ease. “I was mistaken for a burglar. The office manager called security and, with an ad hoc posse, pursued me through the labyrinthine halls, nearly to my editor's door. I had no way of proving who I was.” (?8) Because Brent Staples calmly expresses the prejudice in our society with ethos, he drew the cold realization upon others without offense.
In addition to the layer of ethos he applies, Staples also uses pathos to make get his point across. He writes, “I was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed all at once.” (?2) Here, it becomes clear that Staples can be quite astute in using an appeal to human emotions because he understands his audience well. He writes to a mostly white, closed-minded audience who never had the life experience of discrimination based on skin color. By using appeals to emotions, the audience gains the ability to connect to what Staples felt better, and thus his point becomes rooted deeper in everybody’s minds. Do we how it feels like to go on walks alone in desolate avenues late at night, only to find that somebody else has become discomfited by our presence? Not really, but we do know the feelings of surprise, embarrassment, and dismay. Because Staples took time to write in his emotions, the reader can connect to what the author felt from the simple additions to the passage.
Finally, Brent Staples makes an excellent use of diction to make his final points on the stereotypes of race. Staples describes his distance between him and the woman as, “discreet and uninflammatory.” He deliberately chooses these words to make it clear that he and the woman were not very close — both denotatively and connotatively. Here, the reader should note that Staples makes a bold move to use a word not officially recognized in the English dictionary. Maybe Brent Staples had no other vocabulary words to use, but more likely he used this term to paint the image that the relationship between him and the woman seemed to be very bland and ambiguous. By consciously using this word instead of other potential synonyms, he describes this scene all the more effectively. Other times, Brent Staples uses derogatory language towards himself such as, “victim” (?1), “alienation” (?5), “burglar” (?8), and “murderer” (?10), to set the tone of the negative misunderstandings about him. Because of his smart use of diction, he elevates his point to a powerful message.
In effect, Brent Staples achieves the success of writing a powerful piece of literature by masterfully applying a blended balance between ethos, pathos, and diction. The balance between ethos, pathos, and diction allows for different types of thought to be manifested and taken into account. By doing so, Staples describes the disappointing reality of living a life of a stereotyped black man in American society today to an even wider range of audiences.