How does racism play a role in Evicted by Matthew Desmond?

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The main topic of the book, housing insecurity, is inextricably tied to racism in America. For example, the author Matthew Desmond investigates the lower class housing scene in Milwaukee. He notes that Milwaukee was once one of America’s most segregated cities and that eviction is one of the most important...

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The main topic of the book, housing insecurity, is inextricably tied to racism in America. For example, the author Matthew Desmond investigates the lower class housing scene in Milwaukee. He notes that Milwaukee was once one of America’s most segregated cities and that eviction is one of the most important forces in the lives of many black Milwaukee residents. Therefore, eviction is both a symptom of racism and an event that intensifies the effects of racism that is deeply embedded in American society. For example, African American and Hispanic neighborhoods were specifically targeted by subprime mortgage lenders, so these communities were especially hurt when the economy crashed in 2007. Furthermore, because of the inequities in our criminal justice system, which incarcerates black people at a rate disproportionate to their overall population numbers in America, they are also unfairly pushed out of the housing market, which discriminates against those with a criminal record and relegates them to substandard, poorly regulated housing.

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In Evicted, Matthew Desmond analyzes the intersections of racism and classism by discussing how black people, living in the land that is now known as "America," are especially affected by capitalism and housing insecurity. Desmond discusses the ways in which racist city policies that redline districts and push black people into under-resourced parts of the city, in conjunction with racist, capitalist landlords, result in housing insecurity and oppression for black people. Because of centuries of economic, political, and social racism against black people in this country, there has always been a particularly large wealth gap between black people and white people, even amongst working-class black people and working-class white people. Slavery gave way to intense economic and political oppression against black people, even directly in the wake of emancipation. There has never been actual economic racial justice in this country since the days of slavery, which has resulted in present-day economic racism. Desmond points out how this reality of state-based racism coincides with private capitalist ventures. Ghettoization, gentrification, and unequal loan opportunities has resulted in housing shortage for working class black folks in which landlords can take advantage of people's desperate situations. This situation is intensified as public housing programs are cut and de-prioritized and as gentrifying companies and private individuals buy up houses in historically black neighborhoods. The result is that black people are pushed out of their neighborhoods, the houses are then renovated and sold to wealthier white people, and black people are pushed further and further out of the city and into less and less resourced areas.

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Racism plays a key role in Evicted by Matthew Desmond. He presents it as one of the inevitable consequences of a chronically broken housing system. African Americans tend to be among the poorest members of society, and, therefore, are in greater need of public housing assistance. So the lack of affordable housing has a disproportionately negative impact on them compared with other groups in society.

This makes African Americans more vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous landlords, who wield enormous power in this seller's market. The shortage of housing means that potential tenants are often desperate to take any accommodation, no matter how sub-standard. This means that landlords like Sherrena can charge pretty much what they like for what are little more than ratholes.

Desmond presents the housing crisis as both symptom and cause of continued racial division, ensuring that all too many African Americans remain trapped in run-down ghettoes, thus reinforcing Milwaukee's unwanted reputation as one of the most racially-segregated cities in the United States.

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