How is the trailer park similar to and different from the North Side of Milwaukee?

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How is the trailer park similar to and different from the North Side of Milwaukee?

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Class oppression and capitalist exploitation are the common realities that exist for people living in both the trailer park and the North Side of Milwaukee. In both living situations, the land lord is able to exploit the tenants and profit off their poverty. The less money and power a person has, the more a landlord can exploit the person through refusing to make repairs, charging ridiculous late fees, arbitrarily fining and penalizing people, and enacting arbitrary and often illegal evictions. Without the ability to hire a lawyer, tenants are often unable to effectively fight back against the powerful landlords. These conditions and realities exist for both the tenants in the trailer park and the houses of the North Side.

Capitalism and state oppression is also incredibly racialized, and as such, Evicted speaks to how black people must endure both class oppression and racialized oppression by state and capitalist exploiters such as landlords. On the North Side, tenants must endure heavier police presence in their neighborhoods and more forceful and brutal police evictions. Additionally, evictions can result more readily and easily in long-term consequences such as homelessness due to racism and the prejudice of potential employers. As such, the book explores the commonalities of classism and the intersections of classism and racism.

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Matthew Desmond’s Evicted is a critical look at extreme poverty in the United States, particularly in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It paints a stark picture of those affected by the severe lack of affordable housing. Desmond himself was originally inspired to study the correlation between poverty and the housing market after his lower middle-class family lost their home during his studies. Two areas that he studies quite closely are the College Mobile Home Park, owned by negligent Tobin Charney, and the north side of Milwalkee, specifically a group of properties owned and operated by the ambitious Sherrena Tarver.

The most glaring difference between the the two areas is the racial population. The trailer park houses predominantly white tenants while Sherrena’s properties rent to mostly black tenants. Another difference is that when members of the trailer park community are evicted, they have a much easier time finding replacement housing due to their race. Tenants of Sherrena, however, are one step away from the homeless shelter at all times.

Other than the inherent differences that come with race, much of these two living situations present the same issues. Both landlords, while not entirely unkind, are equally exploitative. Sherrena markets exclusively to the impoverished black population simply because she can earn more for less by taking advantage of black tenants with criminal records, as they are desperate for housing. Similarly, Charney neglects the trailer park to the point that the tenants are living in filth and squalor, insisting that they clean up toxic messes around the park.

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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a nonfiction book written in 2016 by American author Matthew Desmond. The account explores issues of poverty, affordable housing, and economic exploits at the hands of the underprivileged through an examination of eight families who live in various areas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the 2008 financial recession.

The two key areas detailed are the north side, which has neighborhoods primarily consisting of African Americans, and the trailer park on the south of the city, which primarily consists of white residents. These racial disparities are the first and most visible indicator of the differences between the areas.

These areas have a fair amount in common though, specifically the fact that regardless of skin color, families struggle to make rent payments to their landlords. The families struggle to get by financially and the difficulty they experience in making ends meet, specifically with regard to rent payments, is universal. Both areas are exploited by landlords who take advantage of their tenants. The profits of the landlords exist in stark contrast to the extreme poverty they exploit.

Throughout the account, another important difference comes to light. The eviction rates of the black community are significantly higher than the eviction rates of the white community, which uncovers and epitomizes the inherent racism with regard to the affordable housing market.

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Evicted shows us, among other things, that Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. The north side of town consists largely of impoverished neighborhoods, with an overwhelmingly African American population. Just south of the Menomonee river there’s a trailer park where most of the residents are white.

But aside from the obvious racial differences, these communities have quite a lot in common. For one thing, they are both continually exploited by a system that makes huge profits out of the poor housing in which these people are forced to live. On the North Side, Sherrena makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from renting out low-quality properties in some of the worst ghetto neighborhoods. Meanwhile, farther south, Tobin Charney makes nearly half a million dollars from trailer park rents.

Nevertheless, Matthew Desmond presents us with evidence of a so-called racial dividend in relation to evictions as with much else in Milwaukee. Eviction rates among white tenants, though rising, are still considerably lower than those of African Americans. This feeds into a sense of white privilege among the residents of the run-down trailer park in Evicted despite the appalling conditions in which they live.

A system that exploits poor people of color nonetheless serves to maintain and reinforce feelings of white supremacy. The white tenants who live in Tobin Charney’s trailer park may have little or nothing, but as far as most of them are concerned things could be a whole lot worse; they could be forced out, possibility having to move to the black ghettos of the North Side. So the system marches inexorably on, exploiting deep-seated racial hostility and obscuring the common class interests that should unite the North Side with the white trailer parks in a campaign for real economic and political change.

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