Rhetorical Analysis Of Robert Bullard’s How Race Affected The Federal Government’s Response To Katrina

1196 words - 5 pages

Dr. Robert Bullard is a researcher, activist and author who pioneered a branch of social science known as Environmental Justice. His efforts have been to fight toxic dumping in minority communities by bringing wide attention to this issue. He has been referred to as the "Father of Environmental Justice". (Bullard 1) This speech, “How Race Affected the Federal Government’s Response to Katrina” uses Hurricane Katrina and several other disasters to highlight inequities toward the black communities at all phases of disaster response. There is special emphasis on the negative effects of these inequities as deliberate racial discrimination against black communities by all levels of government. Although Dr. Bullard engages the listener well with emotionally charged phrases, it will be shown that he fails to establish that discrimination alone, and not other inherent complexities of disaster response, accounts for all of his claims.
Dr. Bullard effectively establishes ethos by his well-known reputation as the definitive expert concerning this subject and by referring to studies and personal research of the events he describes throughout the speech. He further establishes ethos by using first-person narrative throughout the speech, such as in his opening sentence, “We’ve documented at least a dozen hurricanes in the South and how African-American communities have fared….” (Faigley, and Selzer 328), and following shortly with, “…we looked at various hurricanes, how and what happened and the damage and what the response was.” (Faigley, and Selzer 328) also, “We have investigated this whole idea of who provides assistance in the initial hours of disasters.“ (Faigley, and Selzer 330) His most effective use of ethos is his personal narrative of when he lived in Houston, Texas during Hurricane Alicia in 1983. He presents an eyewitness account of how the government failed to cleanup the black communities’ hurricane debris in a timely manner. He describes how the government then consolidated the debris in one particularly impoverished black neighborhood and attempted to incinerate it, causing noxious fumes, smoke and further harming the residents. Giving first hand accounts and sharing original research about these events adds much credibility to his claims.
The employment of pathos is the most used invention of the speech, and the most effective. Dr. Bullard uses the emotional appeal of the inherent immorality racial discrimination represents as he argues that the United States government is racist as it applies to disaster response. His account of the Government's response to a terrorist threat involving the U.S Senate and the Brentwood Section Post Office contrasts how the two groups of people involved, mostly white senators and mostly black post office workers, were not protected equally from harm by the letters contaminated with anthrax. This led to two post office workers dying. (Faigley, and Selzer 328) The incident as described equates to a...

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