You could sense the tension in the classroom. We had been informed that we were going to be discussing It after the break. An uncomfortable atmosphere hovered over the participants in the smallish classroom in which a group of real estate agents had gathered to continue their education.
The mandatory 3 hours of Civil Rights Instruction was the elephant in the room. Now, why did I feel that in an oddly peculiar way that this was about me? Being the only black participant in the class, I sensed that everyone was poised to be careful, ...very, very careful in how they responded to this provocative topic. Or perhaps, they were watching to see how I would respond.
The instructor wasn't about to make this easy. No Way! This was not to be a polite discussion about the history of civil right laws & all the great progress that had been made in West Michigan. After a hilarious (if it wasn't so serious) video, sporting a fellow in yellow polyester suit demonstrated how racism works in real estate through steering & other forms of discrimination, the instructor opened up the floor for discussion.
The first few questions were tepid, somewhat timid. I sensed that to most of my classmates, I was one-dimensional as though my color defined all that was important to know about me. How could I explain that there is no such thing as the "typical" black person. This figment of their imagination that they were trying so desperately to avoid offending by airing their opinions & perceived grievances. People are people, there is no typical anything when it comes to the business of being human! At some point, they seemed to forget that I was in the room. Fear & vulnerability began to surface.
Several individuals admitted they felt intimidated when dealing with individuals with whom they had very little experience or contact . Others expressed the fear of being tested...the dreaded exercise in which undercover agents employed by the government would randomly test brokers by sending out people from different ethnic backgrounds to determine if everyone received the same level of professional attention and service. Advise designed to supposedly protect oneself from being "burned " ranged from "just treat others like you would like to be treated" to "make sure you offer everyone a cup of coffee." This, taken to a ridiculous degree, resulted in real estate agents offering every single solitary client they met in the office, Coffee even if it was 100 degrees & sweltering heat outside. This was considered proof positive you had treated everyone the same!
The dirty, not so secret reality in real estate, is that historically our industry has not treated everyone the same.
Lola Audu, is the Designated Broker & Owner of Audu Real Estate. Our company specializes in helping people buy and sell homes in the greater Grand Rapids, West Michigan area. You can contact us via e-mail @ firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 616-791-0511. Thanks for visiting our blog. Here are links to some of our most popular posts for you to enjoy!