The concept of kairos in rhetoric denotes timing or the proper words delivered at the proper time in the proper measure to effect one’s purpose. How one defines proper and determines kairos is an art, not a science. I suspect that Charles Barron, a member of the New York City Council, displayed poor kairos at the rally for reparations for slavery in Washington D.C. yesterday. He told the crowd: “I want to go up to the closest white person and say, ‘You can’t understand this, it’s a black thing,’ and then slap him, just for my mental health.” If he’s speaking figuratively, I understand him perfectly. But his timing and the rhetorical situation demonstrate that he’s speaking literally, so this is dangerous nonsense because it might incite someone to such action. Should we have a reasoned, national dialogue on reparations? Yes, we should. What should come of such a dialogue? Just this: reasonable civic debate leading to political action in the best interests of all Americans. I have no idea what that action will or should be.
The Rhetorica Network
I offer commentary on the rhetoric of the American conversation, especially as it unfolds in documentary film, the news media, and politics. Check out my feeds on Twitter and Instagram. Also be sure to see my work at Carbon Trace Productions, a non-profit documentary film studio in Springfield, Missouri. I am a Professor of Media & Journalism at Missouri State University. I teach classes in mobile journalism and documentary filmmaking.
Carbon Trace Productions