Racism In Alex Haley's 'Just Walk On By'

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“Just Walk on By”

Alex Haley, an American writer in the late 1900s, once said “racism is taught in our society, it is not automatic. It is learned behavior toward persons with dissimilar physical characteristics” Although he was famous for his literature, Haley still faced racism for being black. In his quote, he briefly explains why racism is still around, and why people discourage minorities. Similar to another black writer, Brent Staples, a journalist, wrote several essays trailing his life growing up black. One of the essays Staples wrote, “Just Walk on By”, was a reflection of how his mere presence on the street was enough to frighten a woman. Staples conveys his message of being misjudged by reflecting on his issues with race and gender in the United States through the use of strong diction and figurative language.

In introducing his purpose, Staples use of emotion helps create his message by having consistent, powerful language in discussing his experience. The author’s use of phrases such as “My first victim” and “stalking sleep” serves to establish the use of connotation diction (542). Given that these words typically indicate negative denotations, it concludes that here it is contrary to what his audience perceives; for example, “victim” implies he is the perpetrator. This misrepresentation echoes throughout the essay as it exhibits irony; Brent Staples is the victim. Furthermore, the author lays out the bare facts that black men are dangerous. After
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