Rereading America, from chapter five:
Parrillo, “Causes of Prejudice”
Fredrickson, “Models of American Ethnic relations: A Historical Perspective”
Harris and Carbado, “Loot or Find: Fact or Frame?”
Kaplan, “Barack Obama: “Miles Traveled, Miles to Go”
Making arguments in our lives usually means persuading an audience; often it means, if it is a real argument, addressing a group that is not completely open to
hearing and understanding our point of view. This assignment will address two issues:
• Building an argument using convincing textual evidence
• Writing in order to persuade an unsympathetic argument
Chapter 5 in Rereading America addresses the history and present realities of the tensions that have surrounded, and still surround, racial and ethnic differences
in the United States. We can broaden the range of this topic to include areas of class, sexual orientation, religion, gender, and political affiliation, at the least.
Each of these categories, including race, are populated by groups we could call “others”—groups that both are seen by the majority culture as being somehow “outside”
and are viewed by the majority culture with a degree of suspicion.
In a four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half page, double-spaced, 12-point typeface essay, argue for how some of the ideas in TWO of the essays in chapter 5 of
Rereading America apply to ONE of these groups of “others” of your choosing. Define the group carefully. Write to an audience who would doubt the validity of your
topic, the book’s texts, and your argument. If you choose to write about an “other” that is defined by race or ethnicity, be specific in naming this group (e.g.,
Korean, or mixed-race, or Persian).
For example, I might take the arguments in Harris and Carbado’s essay and apply them to similar thought patterns I see in Orange County about people whom the
majority culture in the OC might consider “others”—those out of the cultural mainstream. Perhaps I would select French people as my group of others. I could talk
about how Orange Countians see French speaking people suspiciously—people who spend too much time thinking about food. This would be a fairly silly paper, but I could
nonetheless choose this topic.
IMPORTANT ADVICE: Read all four essays and the discussion board entries on the essays. Try choosing the focus of your essay by writing about ideas from the
essays that strongly affect you; don’t start out with a particular group in mind. Once you have identified interesting ideas, then think about a group of “others.”
AUDIENCE: Each of the assigned essays from Rereading America for this assignment are written for audiences that likely will not agree with the respective writer’s
ideas. Note the following areas in both the essays you read, and in constructing your own essays:
• Tone—how does the writer decide to present these issues to a potentially unsympathetic audience? Often times a level tone (remember Devor’s essay) is used to
dampen the emotions an audience may feel.
• Introductory content—oftentimes, when a writer believes an audience may be unsympathetic, the introductory section of an essay may be used to build bridges of
understanding and shared experience. Perhaps I could choose an anecdote from my own experience that would echo the prejudiced behavior that the group of Others I have
selected has experienced. This is a way to help people to understand what it feels like to be a recipient of prejudiced thinking and behavior.