Rhetorical Analysis – Margaret Kinnah – Medium
When we hear about gentrification we usually assume that we’re talking about homes and people being displaced from something that belongs to them. But what if I told you that this term has not only been used to talk about housing or where a person resides but also when it comes to food. Yes I said it, food. In the article “When ‘Gentrification’ Isn’t About Housing”, writer Willy Staley argues that “What this metaphorical gentrification points to instead is dishonesty, carelessness and cluelessness on the part of the privileged when they clomp into unfamiliar territory.”
In his article, Staley sets the tone by describing an experience he had visiting Midtown Manhattan. During his visit he found many people raving about New York’s famous chopped cheese. This delicacy is known all over the city and can usually be found at your local bodega for as cheap as $4. This time people weren’t raving out of joy, the people of New York were outraged because their well known delicacy had been gentrified by Whole Foods. He continues on to explain how gentrification has become a term that is not only used when talking about housing but also when it comes to food. Staley explains that the new meaning is something completely different, “it’s something psychic, a theft of pride.” This in many ways is almost worse to being displaced from a community that was originally yours.
Throughout his piece, Staley uses many points from strong sources to strengthen his argument and appeal to logos. When logos is used it’s meant to persuade and grab the readers attention through facts and reason. He uses sources like British sociologist Ruth Glass. Ruth Glass basically coined the word “gentrification” in 1964. She explained that “Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district,” Glass writes, “it goes on rapidly until all or most of the working-class occupiers are displaced, and the whole social character of the district is changed.” (Staley) Using these sources helps Staley’s credibility because from that specific example he was able to draw a parallel from what Ruth Glass said in 1964 to what’s happening now. He explains that her coining of the word can basically mean “those of not-quite-aristocratic birth or to those who profit from land ownership; either to the well-off in general or to the rentier class in particular.” (Staley) This draws back to the parallel between Ruth Glass and Staley. Gentrification is benefiting the white pockets. White people are making profit of things like trying to appropriate and claim specific aspects of people’s culture, such as food.
In addition to his use of logos, Staley makes appeals to pathos throughout his article. From the beginning he sets off the tone with a personal story to allow the reader to place ourselves in the Bronx. He explains how the chopped cheese is known as a “specialty” in that area. By describing the chopped cheese as a specialty it conveys a message ownership and importance to that specific area. Throughout the article he goes on to use some emotionally charged phrases and words to further push an image of sympathy. Staley states that when the new people come into these neighborhoods and buy the “shabby, modest mews and cottages” and turn them into “elegant, expensive residences.” (Staley) By including these two phrases Staley evokes an image of pain. You envision someone getting something important snatched away from them. He also goes on to describe gentrification as something that will never end. He states that “They will continue until the day it’s finally as smooth and featureless as a river rock — and you’re shopping around for a reasonably cozy van.” (Staley) By including this part he makes us feel a sense of helplessness. He’s basically saying there’s really nothing you can do to stop gentrification from progressing and if it continues to progress you can basically end up living in your car.
From the start Willy Staley sets the tone by placing us in shoes of the people of the Bronx. Then continues on to inform us about the new ways that gentrification has began to affect us through appeals like ethos, pathos, and logos. Readers are able to get a full understanding of what’s going while still having the thought of this possibly happening to you in the back of our heads.