PLEASE NOTE: this post is not just for REALTORS®, though it may have a real estate slant (for obvious reasons) and a focus on fair housing and equitable housing. I hope if you come across this post and you are not a REALTOR® or in the real estate industry, you will still consider giving it a read…
I’ve kept mostly quiet and to myself these last few weeks. Except for very personal, private conversations with friends and very close colleagues, I have not taken to social media to express any of what I’m about to write below.
I recently saw an acquaintance issue a blanket public shaming on her Facebook page of anyone who wasn’t publicly posting in support of Black Lives Matter; in essence, her post boiled down to: if you’re not speaking out right now, you’re on the wrong side, and I don’t want to know you anymore. My social media profiles have never been about political statements, and I felt uncomfortable with the idea of making that change now; in no way does that mean that I was staying silent, however.
There are several reasons for my quietude. First reflection. I like to ruminate and marinate on any topic before publicly expressing it. Where In my opinion, my opinion is just that: mine. Second, I want to listen and learn. Not (solely) in the I’ll-change-my-profile-photo-to-a-black-square for a day, a week, or a month to show solidarity, as a gesture that I’m listening and want to know more. Sure, that is a start, I suppose. I am not calling out those who did so. However, to me, for me personally, that felt shallow; it felt deceptively bandwagon-ish; it felt like a short-term public show (in the way that only social media can do) of support, that quickly fades away. Finally, I’ve been bothered, on a very visceral level, by the loud, public pronouncements in the extreme on both sides of the issue — clamoring to be heard but without much follow-up with action. The words sound empty; the memes shallow (even the well-meaning ones). I don’t want to be a voice with no action. I wanted my voice when I chose to use it, to be mindful, to be intellectual, to be empathetic, to be honest, to be transparent.
During this time, I’ve read some beautiful blog and social media posts from other people like me. Let me define “like me”: white women, Generation X or Generation Y, who grew up in the South (defining the South as part of the former Confederacy) and have a similar background, racially and educationally; Southern WASPs, if you will, who grew up hearing certain stories: that the Confederate flag was just a symbol of heritage, a lot of claims that it was “history, not hatred” or “heritage, not hate.” These women (thank you, Bobbi Howe, Hayley Brotherton, and Cassie LaJeunesse, for sharing your thoughtful words) had begun to put into words some of what I was feeling and echoed those conversations that I was having.
We need to begin somewhere, not just as a society, a country, or as individuals. Those personal, private conversations — the ones I mention in the first paragraph above — those were my starting point. These words on this page are the ones I could string together with some small hope of putting my feelings and thoughts into the world as my next step. I have so many next steps to continue learning, listening, thinking, and acting.
Some food for thought: while serving on the Fair Housing Task Force for the National Association of REALTORS® in 2017 and 2018, a position I was honored to have been appointed to and through which I learned so much, an Atlanta REALTOR® colleague friend of mine brought up this fact: there is a neighborhood just south of Atlanta called Jeff Davis Plantation. Jeff Davis + Plantation. In the same name. Of a residential neighborhood. (Google “Jeff Davis Plantation” Atlanta, GA, and you get a number of entries about this neighborhood…and then you get this entry, from The Civil war in Song and Story: 1860-1865.)
Imagine being African American and seeing this neighborhood name pop up in your home search. Imagine being African American and being taken to view a home in this neighborhood. Imagine being African American and living near this neighborhood, driving past it every day. I cannot imagine it — can you? My friend could imagine it. She’s an African American REALTOR®. She’s shown homes in this neighborhood. Imagine being an African American REALTOR with clients who want to view homes in this neighborhood. (There’s also a Jeff Davis Intown Condos and a Jeff Davis Heights. I’m sure these don’t even scratch the surface of similar neighborhoods throughout the South.)
I started putting my voice into action by being one of the first (if not the first) REALTOR® (not a real estate company, but REALTOR® to sign the Georgia Coalition Letter to support the passing of HB (House Bill) 426, to urge our state legislature to finally pass a hate crimes bill in our state (on the day that I signed up to have my name added to this letter, I did not see another individual residential REALTOR® on the list; since that time, I am proud to see that the Georgia REALTORS®, the Athens Area Association of REALTORS®, the Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS®, the Atlanta REALTOR® Association and others have added their names to the list). To read the Georgia Hate Crimes Bill, HB 426, click here.
And now, this is my small contribution, my next step — I admit it’s small, for now. Still, I hope that it grows, not only for my own personal education and enlightenment, for my continued learning, to unlock more conversation and dialogue, not just for me and those close to me, but for anyone reading this and anyone who has something to contribute.
I want to always be learning. I want to always be listening. I want to be present. I want my eyes to always be open. I want to stand up for anyone who doesn’t feel equal or know justice. I want to read and explore. I want my eyes and ears to be open. I want to have dialogues — many thoughtful discussions and discourses — with others who want to read and learn and know and discuss and work diligently toward what is right.
I acknowledge my inherent biases, not only from a lifetime lived in the South but a lifetime of public education in America during a time in which textbooks (and sometimes teachers) didn’t (don’t?) always tell the whole story, or the right story, or the story, period. I acknowledge my white privilege, even when unaware of it). I acknowledge my ignorance of the experiences of others, especially that of People of Color in this country. I acknowledge all of this, but I also want to invite others into a discussion by acknowledging it.
I’ll not claim to be an expert in something of which I do not know: the experiences of others. I know there will certainly be times in which I will say the wrong thing or ask the question in the wrong way (hell, someone, somewhere, will be offended in some way by some part or all of this post, and that’s okay, too), but I will always want to keep discussing and asking. I hope you’ll join me.
Below is the beginning of a list of resources which, as I read and discover them, I will share. This is a personal list full of books, articles, blog posts, podcasts, and more that I have consumed and learned from and that I want to share with anyone interested. I ask this: as you read and discover, and learn, won’t you share those links with me so that I can share in your knowledge and share those resources here for others, too? (PLEASE NOTE: I will read before I share, so new listings/links may be slow to appear, as, of course, I want to be responsible and read for myself anything I include here.)
I’m starting the list with one of my favorite books, which I am re-reading now (for the third time), my much-loved and well-dog-eared copy of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein. If you’ve not read this book, especially if you are a REALTOR®, please read it now. And then keep reading and learning and talking and listening and hearing and asking and dialoguing and doing what you can, right now, as your next step.
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein (buy on Amazon, here)
- “Changing My Mind,” by Cassie LaJeunesse (read it, here)
- “Fighting Systemic Racism in Real Estate,” by Bobbi Howe (read it, here)
- Mississippi Freedom School Curriculum, the Citizenship Curriculum Units 1 – 6 from the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools (read it, here)
- “Long Island Divided” in Newsday, by Ann Choi, Keith Herbert, Olivia Winslow, and project editor Arthur Browne (read the entire study and watch the video, here)
- Stuff You Should Know podcast with Josh Clark and Charles W. (Chuck) Bryant (listen and search episodes, here) — there are so many episodes I want to mention here, but please start with “What Were the Freedom Schools” (Oct 3, 2019), “SYSK Selects: How Revisionist History Works” (Apr 29, 2017), “Remembering Stonewall” (Jun 27, 2017), “Rosa Parks: Agent of Change” (Feb 22, 2018), “SYSK Selects: How The Black Panther Party Worked” (Jun 6, 2020), “MOVE: Or When the Philly Police Dropped a Bomb on a Residential Neighborhood” (Jul 23, 2019), “SYSK Selects: How the Underground Railroad Worked” (Feb 17, 2018), “The Harriet Tubman Story” (Feb 15, 2018), “History of the Trail of Tears – Part I” (Mar 7, 2017), “History of the Trail of Tears – Part II” (Mar 9, 2017)
- “Master Bedroom: An antiquated term that must be addressed,” by Victoria Miller (read it, here)
- “Who’s Your Master? A Pernicious History of the Master Bedroom,” by Alicia Pozniak (read it, here)
- Kathleen Cleaver oral history interview conducted by Joseph Moznier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011 September 16 (for the Library of Congress) (watch it, here)
- “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” by Peggy McIntosh (read it, here)
- “10 Common Phrases That Are Actually Racist AF,” by Bronwyn Isacc (read it, here)
- “11 Common English Words and Phrases with Racist Origins,” by Dylan Lyons (read it, here)
- “Test Whether You Have a Hidden Bias,” REALTOR® Magazine (read it and watch the video, here)
- “Today is Juneteenth, the Most Important Holiday No One Knows About,” from Smithsonian Magazine (read it, here)
- “Lesson of a Lifetime” from Smithsonian Magazine (read it, here)
- “Black Homeowners Face Discrimination in Appraisals” (read it, here)
- Study on “The devaluation of assets in black neighborhoods” by Brookings (read it, here)
- Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America, by Tanner Colby (buy it, here)
- The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap, by Mehrsa Baradaran (buy it, here)
- “How Unfair Property Taxes Keep Blank Families From Gaining Wealth,” by Jason Grotto (read it, here)