by Matthew Desmond

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Compare and contrast Sherrena and Tobin in Evicted.

Tobin and Sherrena are similar in that they are both landlords who exploit a housing shortage to rent poorly-maintained properties to desperate individuals. They are different in that their properties serve different racial communities, as Sherrena's tenants are primarily African American, while Tobin's tenants are white. Though both are ruthless about collecting rent, Tobin is a bit more lenient than Sherrena when it comes to evictions.

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Despite coming from different racial backgrounds—Sherrena is African-American and Tobin is white—they have both managed to find a way to make a lot of money out of the chronic housing crisis afflicting Milwaukee.

Sherrena makes a good living as a landlord renting out substandard properties in run-down neighborhoods populated almost exclusively by African-Americans. As demand for housing greatly exceeds supply, Sherrena enjoys a position of power over her tenants. She knows that she can rely on a steady stream of clients who are desperate for a roof over their heads.

The seemingly insatiable demand for rental properties, combined with a lack of proper regulation, gives Sherrena great power over her tenants. If any of them get out of line, she can evict them at the drop of a hat, safe in the knowledge that replacement tenants can easily be found.

For his part, Tobin makes his living as a landlord renting trailers in the all-white College Mobile Trailer Park. Racially speaking, it's a world away from the ghetto neighborhoods where Sherrena's property portfolio is concentrated, but the same power dynamics apply.

Tobin's tenants are every bit as desperate for a place to stay as Sherrena's. And like Sherrena's tenants, they're prepared to put up with substandard accommodation rather than end up on the streets. Tobin is every bit as aware as Sherrena that the shortage of property gives him a great deal of power over his tenants.

Although Tobin is a little more reluctant to evict tenants than Sherrena, he can still be ruthless when it comes to collecting rent. When all's said and done, both individuals take the view that business as business, whether it's in African-American neighborhood or an all-white trailer park.

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