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Real Estate and Racism

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By : Jerry Clifford    99 or more times read
Think “racism”. Do your thoughts go to Klansmen waving burning crosses around or signs that state baldly “NO BLACKS NO DOGS NO IRISH”? It would be easy to target discrimination if it was so obvious. However, when it comes to racial steering and the differences in treatment of people of different races or cultures, things get murky.

One of a Realtor's (many) jobs is to uphold the Fair Housing Act, (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.) which means that we are not allowed to steer people towards the “appropriate neighborhood for people, uh, like you guys”. We are not allowed to refuse to show homes to people because they have committed the sin of having a skin that is a few shades darker than our own. Or lighter. Or whatever.

However, it seems that even today, we are still slipping in the filthy slime of racism. Little things, like that joke your boss said yesterday or the hedging questions of your latest client about the “mix” of a neighborhood. Or, the infamous, “I'm not a racist, but… [insert racist comment here]”. The problem with brushing aside things like, “I'm not a racist, but…” is that it remains ingrained as an acceptable practice.

What we, as real estate professionals and as fellow residents of the Planet Earth, need to do is stand up and say, “No. No, it is not okay for you to do/not do/say those things.”

How do we go about it? Well, there's always the cold stare and the icy, “I beg your pardon?” There's the, “That's offensive and I don't want to hear it or anything like it again.” And there's even, “I'm sorry you feel that way. It doesn't look like this business relationship is going to work out.“

Online, there's commenting on blog posts that you feel cross the line. There's reporting people on social networks who target others. There's your own blog and website, where you can make clear your stance.

The virtual world – websites, blogs, etc. are a hotbed of statements that denigrate people of a specific race or ethnic origin. Put your opinion out there and challenge people who make statements that put people down because of their race. Keep in mind that your clients may do their homework online – do you want to be seen as supporting racism with your silence or denouncing it?

It goes beyond “doing the right thing”. Remember, you're protecting yourself too. Racism hurts everybody, whether they're a member of the targeted race or not. If it's okay to steer a Chinese person away from a certain condominium, then it's okay to do the same thing to a woman, a Jew, a redhead, a person over 65, a family with children. The same narrow-minded, ignorant reasoning can be used to exclude just about anybody from the basic rights of home ownership.

As Realtors, we need to be more aware of these subtle exclusions and be prepared to face them head-on. It has been said on-line that, “There is no place for racism in real estate”. I disagree. There is a very comfortable place for it in our line of work. Our job is to make that place disappear.
Jerry Clifford has received the prestigious 100% Club award for his success as a real estate agent in the Minneapolis real estate area. He is certified as an ePRO and prides himself on attention to detail. If you need help in your search for Chaska Minnesota real estate, visit

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