by Matthew Desmond

Start Free Trial

What racial stereotypes are portrayed in Evicted by Matthew Desmond, and how are they used in social relations?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Evicted is a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction book by Matthew Desmond. The book features true accounts of various impoverished families in the inner-core areas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Desmond's reportage and research took place during the beginning and peak of the late-2000's economic recession. To understand the socioeconomic and racial dynamics in Milwaukee, one has to understand its demographics. Milwaukee's total population is composed of 44% whites, 40% blacks, and 17–18% hispanics. This makes Milwaukee, like nearby Chicago, a racially diverse city.

Milwaukee is also situated in the heart of the Midwest, or what economists call the Rust Belt. The Midwest had a booming economy during the second-half of the nineteenth century and the first-half of the twentieth century. This attracted many African American migrants from the South. However, when factories closed their operations during the late-1970s and 1980s, unemployment rates increased, along with drug addiction and homelessness.

Many of the people who experienced the economic struggle during this period were minorities, particularly blacks, as well as lower-class and lower-middle-class whites. Stereotypes of African Americans being drug dealers and white Americans being drug addicts, and vice-versa, were perpetuated during the 1980s and 1990s. This is illustrated by Scott, a nurse who succumbed to heroin addiction. Even with a steady job, Scott's environment and possible depression partially-influenced him to use narcotics.

While the stereotypes do have a partial basis in reality, according to statistics, these stereotypes are rooted in racial discrimination and economic/social class struggles. For instance, one of the most notorious unethical practices in real estate is redlining, which is a form of discriminatory housing. It is a federal crime for landlords and real estate agents to discriminate against potential tenants or homeowners based on ethnicity, color of skin, gender, or sexual orientation. However, many used loopholes to divert African Americans and other minority groups towards undesirable and dangerous neighborhoods, while encouraging middle-class whites to move into posher suburbs.

This unethical practice gave working-class African Americans, latinos, and even some whites, no choice but to live in crime-ridden and socially desolate neighborhoods. This can be seen throughout the book. This situation reinforces stereotypes of inner-city black citizens as being criminals. However, the stereotypes do not account for the socioeconomic roots of criminality, which is illustrated by Vanetta, who participated in a failed robbery.

The book also highlights the tribal nature of humans. Whites tend to stick with other whites, while blacks and latinos tend to stick with their own respective communities. This creates a form of unofficial segregation. While there is nothing wrong with preferring to stay close to one's ethnic culture, this large-scale anti-social behavior can lead to racial tension and limited perspectives on cultures different from one's own. At worst, it can lead to bigotry.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial