AS BLACK MEN WASTE AWAY IN PRISON, BLACK WOMEN ARE BEING EVICTED AT ASTRONOMICAL RATES
April V. Taylor
A recent review of a MacArthur Foundation study by Harvard sociology professor Matthew Desmond has shown that black women are being locked out of housing and face much higher eviction rates than other population segments including black men. The study was conducted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and found that 16 families are evicted every day, which means a total of 16,000 people are evicted from 6,000 housing units each year. Desmond points out that these numbers do not include those who are evicted outside of the established legal process.
Desmond also uncovered the fact that while black women only make up 9.6 percent of Milwaukee’s population, they represent 30 percent of the evictions in the city. Desmond believes this is due to multiple factors, one of which is the fact that despite black women in poor neighborhoods being more likely to work than men, the wages they earn for that work are consistently lower. The fact that many of these women are mothers also increases their risk of eviction because children being present in a housing unit puts a landlord at risk for having units tested for lead. Children also create more wear and tear on housing units.
One factor Desmond points out that many have not considered is the relationship between mainly male landlords and their female tenants. The gender dynamics that play out in this relationship cause many women to not confront landlords about impending eviction, which means they generally do not have an opportunity to work out a compromise with the landlord.
Having a record of eviction shuts many poor women out of affordable housing programs and possibly being able to find another place to stay. Desmond states: “Poor black men are locked up while poor black women are locked out.” Once an eviction has occurred, the stigma associated with it perpetuates a cycle of homelessness and poverty for black women in poor neighborhoods.
Desmond points out that while there are initiatives aimed at helping reduce discrimination in housing and make affordable housing available, only one out of every four people who qualify for housing assistance actually receive it. Adequate, affordable housing is just as much of a crisis for black women as incarceration is for black men, and something must be done to more adequately address this problem.
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:
1) This story is one of many pieces of evidence to support the reparations movement. The wealth gap in America has made it difficult for many black families to survive, primarily because there is no legacy of wealth in many of our families. White families, however, typically have relatives they can lean on when financial times are tough. Many whites also receive inheritances of hundreds of thousands of dollars which would make $800 in rent very easy to pay. In fact, many of these women wouldn’t be renting if they had an inheritance, since they would likely be home owners. The evidence of historical economic inequality are all around us. Our ancestors worked very hard to build trillions in wealth that could keep many of these mothers from being evicted. But that wealth was stolen and lies in the hands of the descendants of those who took it. This is a fact.
2) This story is also another glaring example of how the War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration have served to destroy the black family in America. Fathers in the home are important sources of protection and income generation for the family. But if thousands of black men are locked away, this makes it much more difficult for black women to find adequate husbands who can fight with the landlord when he’s trying to put the family on the street. Also, good men will often be able to push themselves to work extra hours on their jobs to obtain the resources the family needs during times of economic crisis. But when that father is locked away and emasculated in prison, his family is often left behind to suffer. This has been nothing short of a holocaust for black America.