The Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors (BH/GLAAR) apologized to its members on Wednesday after a staff member sent out a racially insensitive image in an otherwise staid member newsletter.
The email was sent in response to declining click rates and featured the insensitive meme embedded at the bottom, which caricatured a black woman alongside the words, “READIN’ AIN’T GOT NO TIME FOR THAT.” The meme was pulled from a viral video featuring a woman by the name of Kimberly Wilkins, under the pseudonym “Sweet Brown,” who enjoyed brief celebrity after the video.
In a letter to its members, BH/GLAAR CEO Chip Ahlswede acknowledged the image and apologized for the insensitive meme, which reached the association’s approximately 10,000 members and was passed to a number of people beyond its members, Ahlswede said.
“While I am confident that the staff member who sent this out did not intend for it to be offensive, I would like to sincerely apologize to all of you for this mistake,” said Ahlswede. “We recognize it was in poor taste and not indicative of our organization.”
In response to the email, the trade associate said it would implement a multi-step review and approval process for all official communications.
“We believe that this process will help avert any future occurrences,” Ahlswede wrote in his apology. “Furthermore, I will be reviewing this unfortunate situation with all parties involved and will be taking immediate corrective action.”
Ahlswede told Inman, when reached by phone Thursday morning, that delivery of the newsletter was late so it bypassed the one-person check system that was in place. The meme’s inclusion was an employee’s misguided attempt as boosting engagement using a popular meme. The association now has a three-person check in place.
“It was never intended to be that way, but that doesn’t excuse it, it doesn’t make it right,” said Ahlswede, while offering his deepest apology. “But it just shows how poor judgment can really cause some very hurtful reactions.”
“Our association has long been committed to really stepping up our inclusion with everybody,” Ahlswede added. “It’s not indicative of who we are or how we operate.”
Ahlswede said the association has proactively reached out and apologized to the Consolidated Board of Realtist, an African American real estate trade organization in Southern California as well as other neighboring associations. He’s also been offering personal apologies to others that have called.
Ahlswede said his office will be working to schedule some sensitivity training that all will go through.
Ahlswede encouraged those interested hurt, offended or just interested in talking about the incident to contact him at, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: This story was updated to include additional information from Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors CEO Chip Ahlswede.