Discuss the rhetorical devices employed by Richard Rodriguez in "The Chinese in All of Us."

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Rodriguez in his essay "The Chinese in All of Us" defines America as the sum of all its parts.  Every individual regardless of his ancestry is no longer Hispanic, Chinese, Mexican.  He is American.

Rodriguez, through countless interviews,  has established himself as a spokesperson for Americanization.  In proving his authority on the subject, Rodriguez was the editor for the Pacific News Service, and a contributing editor for Harper's magazine. His essays have been compared to Albert Camus and James Baldwin.  Rhetorically, the author develops his argument using a logical foundation for his ideas, supported by inherent emotional support.  

The previous generation believes that this generation must be careful not to lose its heritage.  The author states that it is a private matter: Rodriguez espouses that the public heritage belongs to all people.  He points out that times have changed:

Diversity is our strength, we say. There is not an American president who would say anything else: We are a country made stronger by our individuality, by our differences. 

The American culture becomes just that--American.  Each person and nationality contribute to the makeup of civilization.  Everyone makes up the American culture.  When immigrants come to the United States, they stand outside the culture.  As they immerse themselves in the American way of life, they add and include the aspects of their culture.

I am my culture.  My culture is rather something we breathe and sweat and live.  My culture is you.  You created me.  If you don't like it, too bad.

From the beginning of our history, all people of all colors have melded themselves together to form a different way of life than their ancestors. The author points out that America is like a stew. Drawing from every culture and color on earth, producing a beautiful, varied existence.

One of Rodriguez's primary points is that there is nothing wrong with the phrase America is a melting pot. He champions this metaphor for America because it alludes to pain.  There is discomfort when incorporates the new traditions and leaves behind what does not work.  Magically though, when a person falls into the melting pot, he becomes a new person--an American.

Multiculturalism simply means that there are different shades of America.  We have confronted social problems and have won and lost.  To further explain his multicultural belief, Rodriguez explains:

I believe in a common culture.  I believe also in the notion of a dynamic culture.  Even while America changes the immigrants, the immigrants are changing us.  

Finally, Rodriguez embraces the idea that heritage and culture are not the same.  Culture is the environment that a person finds himself in whether he is at school, church, or at home. The individual will assimilate when he hears his Polish grandfather or his Chinese neighbors.  Because they are a part of all of our lives, everyone is destined to become Chinese.


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