Rhetorical Analysis Assessment of Essay by Lawrence Otis Graham Lawrence Otis Graham is an African American who was born into a upper-middle class family and graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School. He works as an attorney, teaches at Fordham University, and is the author of a dozen books. He grew up in the 70s and, therefore, experienced segregation and bullying because of his ethnicity. In his essay, “The “Black Table” Is Still There”, he recounts the different occasions on which he was excluded from things and bullied, and also criticizes society for the superficial inroads of integration into society.
The speaker in “The “Black Table” Is Still There” is Graham himself as he remembers his junior high school days. There were multiple audiences for this essay and the purposes were all somewhat similar. The first audience could be those that sat at the black table. His purpose would be to influence them to try to mix and mingle with new people to break out of the mold of being segregated. The second audience could be black people who didn’t sit at the black table. His purpose would be to give them ideas on how they could allow everyone to be mixed and make them think about why they didn’t join the black table. The third audience could be the other people who sat at their own self-segregated tables. His purpose in this is similar to the first audience in that he is trying to influence them to break their habit of sitting separate and to get them to try and meet new, different people.
Graham’s logical appeal is written in this essay and states,” The black lunch table, like those other segregated tables, is a comment on the superficial inroads that integration has made into society.” This basically means that the integration that is being applied to schools is in name only. The ethnically different students will not automatically mix because they are together. The segregation is veered more towards self-segregation rather than forced segregation. The proof of this is when he recalls how even though the government put new integration policies in place, the students naturally segregated themselves into their own tables. This is because it is more comfortable to be around things that are familiar.
For Graham’s emotional appeal, his tone in this essay is anger and disappointment. After reading the essay, this reader was influenced to feel disappointment at society for its practices and anger at how the kids at his school couldn’t accept him mixing him with others.
This reader experiences this self-segregation everyday at high school to some degree. It is getting much better now with everyone sitting with whomever, but the “Black Table” is still apparent. There is also other tables where people who speak a certain language go. It is hard to mix with others because everyone wants to be around comfortable and familiar things. It is natural to sit with who one thinks will get along with.
The essay is written in first person and is told in the format of a memory of the author’s childhood. It is written for kids 8th grade and up, but also includes some challenging vocabulary that may not be understood. There is very descriptive language that provides clear imagery of the school setting in which he experienced. An example of this would be when he is describing the brightly-lit cafeteria with the twenty-seven blue formica tables and the hustle of the 600 children. The figurative language used in this essay is personification. He gives embodiment to words as if they were physical when he says,” …angry words were being hurled at me from the black table.”