There was an incident in the real estate community recently that both angered and fascinated me. A prominent Caucasian female agent posted hateful and racially charged comments to photos on an Instagram account dedicated to black and brown unity. These comments included "Well they are dirty Mexicans," "We need a wall are you kidding!!! Go Trump!" and "Get these thugs out of our country".
As a follower of the page, I witnessed as the following unfolded in real time:
- As soon as the racially charged comments were made, angered followers of the page immediately began responding.
- Her comments were deleted, but not before the page itself screenshot the remarks and subsequently posted them, including her user name.
- Page followers were up in arms, tagging the woman in their comments as they angrily responded to her remarks.
- A few page followers posted links to her employee profile, and another follower posted her public information, which as a real estate agent, was readily available to the public. This included links to her employer's company and personal Instagram pages.
- Followers began to comment on photos found under her employer's company and personal Instagram page as well as her coworker's pages, to inform them about the 'type' of employee they had working for the company.
- Her employer responded that he would be looking into the issue and taking the appropriate action and that any comments made do not reflect the values of the company.
- The employer released the following statement:
"We believe that every individual no matter what their skin color, race or ethnicity is equal in every way. We do not tolerate hateful or racist speech... The employee in question has been terminated from the group. Again, on our behalf please accept our apologies."
All of this happened over a span of less than 12 hours.
As an agent myself, as well as a proud Latina woman, watching this unfold brought up one heavy truth - discrimination is alive and well in the real estate industry.
Combating Discrimination & Donald Trump's Hate Rhetoric
Discrimination in real estate can change the landscape of an entire area through illegal practices such as steering or blockbusting.
Steering is an illegal practice in which certain people are shown certain properties but not others because of discriminatory factors such as race or religion. Blockbusting (also called panic selling) is when a homeowner is encouraged to sell their property because they are told by an agent that a certain demographic is moving into the area and thus property values will drop.
There are of course laws in place addressing this type of discrimination in the Real Estate industry, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Fair Housing Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The very fact that these laws are required and in existence is a testament to the institutional discrimination in the industry. What these laws don't address however, is the undercover racism that may not come to light or cannot be easily monitored, such as the private discriminatory beliefs of an agent.
Take the aforementioned case of the Beverly Hills agent. Except for making these statements on a public social forum and having it brought to the attention of hundreds of Instagram users as well as her employer, this agent might have continued her career without her racist beliefs ever brought to light. Her beliefs would then affect her actions leading to discriminatory practices as an agent. I wonder, how many others like her are out there?
If Donald Trump's fan base is any indicator, quite a few.
In fact, it is likely Trump's hateful rhetoric enabled this racist outburst from a woman that otherwise seemed the image of professionalism. This is because Trump is the antithesis of political correctness. He says whatever is on his mind, no matter how outrageous or inflammatory it may be, and for many, his energy becomes contagious and his followers begin to adopt a mob mentality. It is this mob mentality that may have allowed this woman to feel justified in making racist remarks on a public forum.
But let me be clear, she was not justified and I stand 100% behind her employer's decision to terminate her.
This is just a small step in combating discrimination, specific to the real estate industry.
Ultimately, the path to truly eradicate these issues at the macro level, will likely span the course of multiple generations, however there are steps you can take now to begin that process. Acknowledge that these issues exist, oppose and take swift action against discriminatory behaviors and finally, work to put leaders into place who are intolerant of discrimination. Namely, take advantage of your right to vote.