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“Devil in a Blue Dress” By Walter Mosley Essay

When will it end? Racial stereotypes have been around since the 19th century and its presence is the United States is still felt; this ideology has been portrayed in all types of mediums where semiotics influence a person’s thought process. The influence of racial stereotyping has molded how a person judges another person by the basis of their race. Walter Mosley, the author of Devil in a Blue Dress, takes advantage of existing racial stereotypes to inform his readers of the enormous issue still facing society today. Mosley has incorporated the issues of ethnic discrimination noticed in media and advertisements in Western Culture while mass advertisements from the media has led the battle for racial stereotyping.

A common stereotype portrays all African-Americans to speak “ghetto” also known as Ebonics. The Hip-Hop and media industry are two of the main mediums that has effectively influenced popular culture. M.T.V (Music Television) liberally broadcasts programs to its viewers African Americans people speaking words such as “y’all and n’ah mean” are just the tip of the iceberg for this dialect of English. The effect of portraying all black people in television talking “ghetto” significantly demeans their image of knowledge and their ability to communicate proficiently with society. If one just watched M.T.V all of their life, he or she they would assume all African-Americans people speak another dialect of English. The effect of the Ebonic stereotype has carried over into English literature.

Walter Mosley incorporates the stereotype of African-Americans speaking Ebonics to give his readers a sense of why black people talk in “ghetto”. Easy, one of the main characters in Devil in a Blue Dress, states “I always tried to speak proper English in my life, the kind of English they taught in school, but I found over the years that I could only truly express myself in the natural, “uneducated” dialect of my upbringing.” The significance of this passage demonstrates black people who use Ebonics know how to speak proper English but they choose not to because they ultimately decide to speak in Ebonics to express their ideas more accurately. It is human nature for one to do an action or develop a habit that makes them feel comfortable. Although people are misled to think that black people are not literate enough to speak proper English maybe they just do not want to. However, Black people haven’t only been the target of racial stereotyping.

White people have been portrayed by media, advertisements, and magazines to be rich and successful. For example, a Caucasian person is usually featured on the cover of Forbes magazine. To be featured on the cover of the business magazine one must be successful and witty in their business endeavors. There are people from every race that have been successful in the business world, but it is white people who are represented the most. How come Forbes magazine do not like to feature other ethnicities more often or why not add Ebonics to the cover of the magazine? Television ads such as the Cingular commercial boasting their national coverage depicts two white male business partners communicating with each other from far distances. These usages of media to convey racial stereotyping are effective. The mass stereotyping in the media has caused society to develop messages of white people being the “supreme’ being and the most intelligent opposed to African Americans who are portrayed to be illiterate and unable to speak English properly.

The history between white and black people has created a grudge filled with pain and guilt that kept both of them intolerable of each other’s values. A large void characterized by the pride and ego of both races has made it difficult for society to integrate a healthy relationship between the two ethnicthicies. According to Demoit, solving the problem of their relationship would mean we as an individual would have to “scrub off the dirt of ill will.” Although the media can depict the two ethnicities living happy ever after, the goal of reaching a agreement between the two races will be very difficult For instance, the explicit show Southpark features only one African American child among a Caucasian dominated population. Token, the name of the child, suggests that he is the token black friend among his group of white friends. Therefore, television is emanating wide void between black and white relationships.

Mosley incorporates the stereotyping of the “supreme” white male in Devil in A Blue Dress. Dewitt Albright, a rich businessman, symbolizes as the epitome of the successful white male who has many connections that the ordinary person would not have. From the beginning to the end of the novel Mosley explicitly describes Albright to be well dressed in a white suit┬ácomplemented with white silk socks. One of the passages in the novel after an unknown person knocks out Easy has a concerned Primo trying to figure out the situation.

Primo states, “What happened, Amigo? You have a fight with your friends?” a delusional Easy asks “What friends?” Primo replies “Joppy and the white man in the white suit.” The white man in the white suit Primo describes is Dewitt Albright. The significance of Dewitt Albright wearing this white suit throughout the entire novel creates an image of an individual radiating success from his body. Albright, one of the more notable characters in the novel, is not the only white character in the novel; Mosley explicitly describes all the white characters in the novel to wear fashionable clothing while the black character’s appearance depict a less affluent individual.

The psychological effect of mass advertisements has helped develop racial stereotypes. Mass consumerism has given rise to mass advertisements, which has the power to influence large portions of society (Twitchell 204). Since large portions of the populations in the United States have televisions in their household society is constantly fed information from the media. The images of sex, alcohol, and racism have a profound effect on society that is non-promiscuous to its viewers.

Works Cited:

Demott, Benajamin. “Put on a Happy Face: Masking the Differences Between Blacks and Whites.” Signs of Life: in the United States 5 (2006): 1-805.

Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress. New York: Washington Square P, 2002. 1-261.

Twitchell, James B. “What We are to Advertisers.” Signs of Life: in the United States 5 (2006): 203-207.


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