During a hearing for Senate Bill 5733, which would end “no cause” evictions across Washington state, a landlord suggested that “minorities” face higher evictions rates than whites do because minorities abuse alcohol, drugs, and have “psychosis.”
“Why do we have such high [eviction] numbers with minorities and these other groups? Well, I’m just going to be blunt,” the landlord said. “Drugs and alcohol is the thing as a landlord that I face. Psychosis is something I face.” You can watch his whole testimony here.
The landlord's apparent motivations for evicting tenants, of course, are based on false, racist stereotypes about drug use and the mental health of people of color. We see this shit all over the place.
A recent review of studies on schizophrenia diagnoses found a consistent racial disparity going back at least 30 years. Clinicians diagnose black people with schizophrenia at greater rates than white people with the same symptoms—and that's coming from people who are trained in this stuff, not random landlords looking for a reason to push out a tenant. Psychiatrist William Lawson at Howard University has done a lot of the work on the overdiagnosis of schizophrenia in black men, if you want to read more. And Americans generally see black men as more threatening than white men of the same build.
And though black people and white people use and sell drugs at similar rates, black people are much more likely to get arrested for it.
The perpetuation of these stereotypes, along with a history of redlining in American cities, is actually what contributes to the high eviction rates among minorities.
The numbers are pretty shocking. A recent study from the University of Washington found that "black adults are evicted 5.5 times more than whites in King County" and "6.8 times more in Pierce County," while "Latinx adults are evicted 1.9 times and 1.4 times more than whites in King and Pierce."
During the hearing, Sen. Steve Hobbs called the landlord's comments “offensive” and directed the landlord lobbyists to “coach [their] people” before testifying on the issue. Sen. Bob Hasegawa agreed.
The committee chair, Sen. Mark Mullet, did not initially join his fellow senators in their condemnation. However, in an email to me on Thursday, he called the landlord's comments "unacceptable" and "offensive."
Mullet added that he didn't think the landlords who made the offensive comments speak for all landlords across Washington, "especially the landlords who came to testify in support of the bill."