Richard RodrÃguez was faced with racism first-hand from an early age. He grew up seeing his aunts and uncles use a variety of home remedies in an attempt to make his cousins' skin lighter. Also, he and his older sister felt inferior to the "gringos- and unfortunately accepted such treatment of them as commonplace. Their own lack of self-esteem and confidence seems to cause them to view themselves as inferior to others, which eventually caused others to view them the same way. While the author's family felt that a dark complexion inevitably led to poverty, this does not have to be the case. In RodrÃguez's story, "Complexion-, his claim is two-fold: that consistent exposure to racism can lessen a person's self-confidence, but with enough persistence and determination, anyone can overcome anything "even the affects of racism.
RodrÃguez cites countless examples demonstrating that, as a child, he believed his family members to be inferior because of their race, skin, color, and, most of all, the way they treaded themselves in the context of greater American society. He also distinguishes between the treatment of the darker-skinned members of his family and the lighter-skinned ones. The low self-esteem becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for many of his family members. RodrÃguez does, however, make something of himself (as stated in the introduction of the essay). Maybe what helps him to overcome the self-fulfilling prophecy was the fact that he becomes fascinated with his more well-to-do friends and makes an effort to fit in with them as he matured. Regardless, it seems that his family fatefully accepted the theory that dark skin leads to poverty and did not challenge such a concept. A little self-confidence may have turned things around for all of them.
In his essay, Complexion, RodrÃguez uses the rhetorical modes of narration and description. The narration mode gives the work a story-like flow, while the description mode makes the reader more able to experience the emotions and feelings present in the story.