Before the 21st century, transgender people were often discriminated against and harassed. This meant non-binary people often experienced depression, anxiety, and fear because of their gender identity. Reform groups including The National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender Foundation of America were established to prevent harassment and discrimination of non-binary people. In the same way, African Americans were often discriminated against within the justice system. According to The Prison Policy Initiative, 58% of African American youths do their time in adult prisons, and 41% of incarcerated youths are African American. Dashka Slater, author, speaks on the discrimination within the justice system and exposes common forms of discrimination within both the LGBTQ and African American communities. Slater’s effective use of symbolism, pathos, repetition, and juxtaposition in The 57 Bus makes readers want to join her in preventing discrimination among the LGBTQ community and advocating change within the criminal justice system.
Throughout the book, Slater continued to reference the 1001 White Blank Cards. The card game symbolized the importance of respecting someone’s preferred pronoun. Within the first few chapters of the book, Slater introduces the card game which draws the reader in and addresses the problem on hand. She writes, “A card called Luke…Sasha…Person was added to the index card deck. If someone calls Sasha by the wrong name, the card instructed, the offender must discard a card from his/her hand” (Slater 39). The card game symbolizes the importance of respecting someone’s preferred pronoun and reminds Sasha’s friend group that they must respect their choice of pronouns. The card game makes readers empathize with non-binary people which establishes pathos for the audience because this is a common theme non-binary people experience. Slater continues to appeal to the humanitarian within the audience by continuing to repeat the card game throughout the entire book, even ending the book with another excerpt about the card game. By using repetition, it reinforces the idea of respecting someone’s choice of pronouns, making it clear that following preferred pronouns is important if readers want to make non-binary people feel included. If people are constantly discriminated against because of how they identify themselves, Slater emphasizes that it can lead to depression and anxiety. Slater does this by including statistics about the number of non-binary people who attempt suicide, which creates a sense of urgency, making the reader want to join her in preventing discrimination among the LGBTQ community.
Slater’s choice of the word “you”, allows her to craft her argument because it makes the audience feel as if they are in prison with Richard. In three different chapters, Slater uses the word “you”. She writes, “Once you arrive at a Reception Center or Facility, you will be provided clean basic state-issued clothing and sufficient personal hygiene items. You will shower daily and are provided with soap, shampoo, towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, and other hygiene supplies” (Slater 273). By repeating the word “you”, Slater helps the reader understand what it is like to be booked into the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Readers are exposed to the harshness of the juvenile system because inmates are fearful and anxious, are given very few rights, and are confined in a horrible state. This makes readers more inclined to be sympathetic toward Richard. Because of that sympathy, readers are more likely to want to advocate change within the criminal justice system, helping Slater achieve her main purpose.
By using themes such as birthdays, Slater makes the audience feel guilty and makes them want to join her in advocating change within the justice system. At the end of the book, she writes that birthdays are not celebrated in prison. On a day that is typically associated with a family celebration, Slater contradicts the typical norm with the reality that “individual birthdays aren’t celebrated in Juvenile Hall” (291). The reader develops a sort of pity and guilt because while they are celebrating with their family and friends on their birthday, Richard must complete schoolwork and stay in prison on his birthday, separated from family and celebration. This shows how Richard loses another sense of childhood, making him more likely to commit a crime again. Therefore, because the audience gains a sense of guilt, it makes the audience want to advocate change within the criminal justice system because inmates are separated and confined from the world.
Lastly, Slater uses juxtaposition to compare Sasha’s identity to Richard’s experience within the legal system. Throughout the book, Slater continues to reference the danger of binary thought beyond gender. In the chapter Binary, Slater explains that “there are only two kinds of people in the world” (215). Slater lists a variety of topics including, “male and female,” “gay and straight,” and “black and white.” In the same way, Richard didn’t understand how Sasha could identify as both female and male, the legal system didn’t understand how Richard could be a good kid who made a bad decision. While Slater condemns Richard’s actions, Slater also emphasizes the danger of judging someone based on one mistake. Slater included information about how he knew and studied the Bible, loved to help make people’s day better, and wanted to be involved in Kaprice Wilson’s program. This shows that Richard was not a bad person, but merely a kid who did something wrong, which was something the legal system did not take into account. This makes the audience upset about how the legal system handles cases and makes them want to advocate change within the justice system.
Slater includes multiple rhetorical devices throughout the book, achieving her goal of making the reader want to join her in preventing discrimination among the LGBTQ community and advocating change within the criminal justice system.