Most of this series of articles is taken from How to Be a Anti-Racist Real Estate Pro, with the permission of the author. It’s the second in a two-part series.
As I mentioned in the previous part of this series, I was devastated after George Floyd’s taped and televised murder. However, after a few months, I heard that my region’s local association – the Atlanta Realtors Association – had established a council on diversity and inclusion. I wondered if (and hoped) this moment might be another historic turning point in the south, especially among brokers.
But as I shared in Part 1, I was extremely disappointed with this first initiative. At first glance, the club can say: “Look at us. We are so committed to diversity and inclusion that we have something called a council. “
However, when you whip out a magnifying glass, it is obvious that this diversity and inclusion advice as it stands today is in the name only. The real discussions are still only led by the few in the club who frankly have ignored the depth of the marginalized voices both anecdotally and from research.
I call it out. Because with the work of JEDI (Justice, Justice, Diversity and Inclusion) we have to cultivate a culture of intervention and accountability. Here is how.
“You too can prevent forest fires”
As I mentioned in Part 1, this was my experience with just a superficial and performative attempt by a local broker association to achieve diversity and inclusion. Fortunately, I have had the privilege of being the JEDI training and coaching partner with many associations, and I know that this is not the atmosphere everywhere.
But wait! There are more:
“I just downloaded your e-book (How to Become an Anti-Racist Real Estate Professional) and it’s amazing! I… am quite skeptical of our state and national associations, so we are working on various policy paths where there is already consensus that we need to change federal policies on lending and real estate practices, ”said a white Wisconsin realtor owner.
Yes. So it’s not just a local Southern Realtors association, and the whites see it too. This lack of justice, justice, diversity and inclusion is not everywhere either, but the truth is it shouldn’t be anywhere.
If you can say that I saw, felt or experienced that too, then please say it out loud.
As mentioned earlier, there are other organizations working for JEDI efforts where we can focus our energies instead. One example is how HomeLight and NAREB (ICYMI: National Association of Real Estate Agents, Inc., formed in 1947 because real estate associations banned black real estate professionals from joining because of their race) to diversify the real estate industry.
One solution to increasing home ownership for all underrepresented communities is to diversify the real estate professionals who serve the community, as over 74 percent of real estate professionals are white and as of 2020 a whopping 86 percent of real estate agents will be white.
Amazingly, that was less than 50 years ago friends, which makes this an inequality not just from a bygone era before the Fair Housing Act. For example, the current exclusive verbal gymnastics and ongoing aftershocks of 20th century racist politics (such as redlining and community covenant restrictions; see the book How to Be an Anti-Racist Professional for a deeper dive) have only contributed to the somber black the Home ownership rate is falling disproportionately (less than 50 percent are homeowners).
As a result, since 2000 our American economy has lost an estimated $ 218 billion due to such racism derailing black home ownership, meaning this is a problem that affects us all.
To remedy this, Homelight and NAREB have partnered to improve access and opportunities to real estate education and job opportunities with funding and mentoring for aspiring black professionals. This is just one example of how our volunteer time can be invested elsewhere.
Despite the alternatives, I share my experience with a local brokerage association because it’s like going to one of my favorite chain restaurants or hotels. I’m not giving up the entire chain but I definitely want to speak to the manager at this location. However, this unfortunate and outdated power over attitude comes from the manager, so to speak.
So let me offer you this as a cautionary story when intent and actual effect mismatch. My hope is to give a voice to anyone who, despite the seemingly inclusive marketing, feels like various voices at the club level (or maybe you’ve seen this at the real estate company) – still in the fucking 2021. If you can say that I have seen, felt or experienced that too, please speak up.
“The moment a person whose word means a lot to others dares to act openly and boldly, many others follow suit,” said Marian Anderson, an internationally known opera singer who, in the face of US marginalization, won for only one be a black woman.
Inclusion Index: Let’s Push Accountability for Metrics
What is measured is done. One way to speak up is to urge our associations to track an inclusion index (to collect relevant membership data and feelings of belonging within the association) that members can voluntarily fill in during the association’s annual renewal period.
With an inclusion index, the following JEDI goals can be set, monitored and achieved more easily, as inclusion is an important part of our diversity recipe. For example, I submitted the following proposal for an inclusion index to the Atlanta Realtors Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Council (fingers crossed):
- At the time of membership renewal, members can optionally mark the various parts of their identity (e.g. race, ethnicity, nationality, educational level, college, skills / designations / certifications, tenure, age, disability) along with the update of address information Health status, sexual orientation, marital status, career and parental status, employment status – full time, part time, flexible working – immigration status, belief, veteran status, proficiency in English, spoken languages, etc.).
- Additionally, members can (likely on a five-point Likert scale) rate their feelings upon admission using statements such as the following (which can be expanded but should not be condensed):
- “As a member, I am valued for my differences and unique contributions.”
- “As a member, I can express my opinion without fear of retaliation, punishment or rejection.”
- “I have confidence in my club’s complaint procedures.”
- “The association’s event and educational program meets my needs (e.g. content, time of day, variety of speakers, convenient location, etc., with each sub-item being its own poll).”
- “The membership of this association reflects the surrounding community.”
- “This association makes a difference in the surrounding community.”
- “I feel empathy in the management of the club.”
- “I see people like me in the association leadership.”
- “I am confident that I can join the leadership of this association.”
- “I am confident that my point of view will be respectfully recognized and taken into account if I were to serve in the leadership of this association.”
- It is important that a conspicuous instruction is given in the context of the survey, which shows how participation, although optional, can help to better represent the interests of everyone and make them part of the association.
- We, as JEDI agents, may even want to campaign during the renewal season with our firms and other brokers that we know are increasing survey participation.
- In conclusion, let’s ensure that our associations publicly publish the Inclusion Index annually along with the JEDI work done by the organization and the progress made. This is critical to accountability and transparency.
The difference maker (if we’ve learned something from the power of reviews on Amazon and Yelp) is that we speak out loud rather than resigning ourselves to sitting still so that they – those who are outwardly vying for diversity but not yet that have committed to full recipe – look beautiful.
Let’s be clear, it’s not about us versus them, but neither is it about giving up on us at your own expense for reasons of blind loyalty and compliance. These associations are for the members – all members including the underrepresented – so each vote means a lot.
It is what this moment requires of all of us to stand up for authentic justice, justice, diversity and inclusion. Everyone is against racism, exclusion and marginalization.
Download your free copy of my new book today (aka no fee, but for a limited time so hurry up). How to be an Anti-Racist Real Estate Professional. To your success!
Lee Davenport is a licensed real estate agent, trainer and coach. Follow her on YouTube or visit her website.