Although some associations attempt to advocate marginalized voices, the stated intent is often far from the actual impact. Speaking up to seek accountability for authentic justice, equity, diversity and inclusion is what this moment requires from us all.

This article series is largely taken from How to Be an Anti-Racist Real Estate Pro with permission from the author. It’s the second part of a two-part series. 

As I mentioned in the previous part of this series, after George Floyd’s recorded and televised murder, I was devastated. However, after a few months, I heard that my area’s local association — the Atlanta Realtors Association — had started a diversity and inclusion council. I wondered if (and hoped) this moment would be perhaps another historic turning point in the South, particularly among Realtors.

But as I shared in Part 1, this initial initiative left me extremely disappointed. On its face, the association can say: “Look at us. We are so committed to diversity and inclusion that we have a council so named.”

But if you whip out a magnifying glass, it is glaringly obvious that this diversity and inclusion council as it stands today is in name only. The real discussions will still be had by only the few in the club who frankly have ignored the depth of marginalized voices, both anecdotally and from research.

I am calling it out. Because with J.E.D.I. (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) work, we have to cultivate a culture of intervention and accountability. Here’s how.

‘You too can prevent forest fires’

As I mentioned in Part 1, this was my experience with only one local Realtor association’s perfunctory and performative attempt at diversity and inclusion. Thankfully, I have been privileged to be the J.E.D.I. training and coaching partner with many associations, and I know this is not the atmosphere everywhere.

But wait! There is more:

“I just downloaded your e-book (How to be an Anti-Racist Real Estate Pro) and it is amazing! I … am pretty skeptical of our state and national associations so we are working through different political avenues where there is already agreement that we need to change federal policies as it relates to lending and real estate practices,” said a white Wisconsin broker-owner.

Yeesh. So it’s not just one local Southern Realtor association, and white people see it, too. Again, this lack of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion is not everywhere, but in truth, it should be nowhere.

If you can say, I’ve seen, felt or experienced this too, then please speak out.

As mentioned, there are other organizations that are working for J.E.D.I. efforts where we can focus our energy instead. One example is how HomeLight and NAREB (ICYMI: National Association of Real Estate Brokers, Inc. was formed in 1947 because Realtor associations excluded Black real estate pros on the basis of race from joining) have teamed up to diversify the real estate industry.

One solution to increase homeownership for all underrepresented communities is to diversify the real estate pros who serve the community because over 74 percent of real estate pros are white, with a whopping 86 percent of Realtors being white as of 2020 data.

Shockingly, that’s not 50 years ago, friends, making this a disparity of not just a bygone, pre-Fair Housing Act era. For instance, the current exclusionary verbal gymnastics and lingering aftershocks of 20th-century racist policies (like redlining and community covenant restrictions; see the book, How to Be an Anti-Racist Pro, for a deeper dive) have only contributed to the dismal Black homeownership rate disproportionately declining (with less than 50 percent being homeowners).

Consequently, since the year 2000, an estimated $218 billion has been lost in our American economy due to such racism that has derailed Black homeownership, meaning this is a problem that impacts us all.

To work toward remedying this, Homelight and NAREB have partnered to increase access and opportunity to real estate education and job positions with funding and mentorships for aspiring Black pros. Thus, this is just one example of how our volunteer time can be invested elsewhere.

Yet, despite alternatives, I’m sharing my experience with a local Realtor association because it’s like going to one of my favorite chain restaurants or hotels. I’m not giving up on the entire chain, but I definitely want to speak to the manager at this location. Yet, this unfortunate and dated power over stance is from the manager so to speak, ugh.

That leaves me with offering to you this as a cautionary tale when intent and actual impact do not align. My hope is to give voice to anyone who feels like, despite all of the seemingly inclusive marketing, diverse voices are actually being stifled at the association (or perhaps you have witnessed this at the realty firm) level — still in freaking 2021. If you can say, I’ve seen, felt or experienced this too, then please speak out.

“The minute a person whose word means a great deal to others dares to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow,” said Marian Anderson, an internationally renowned opera singer who triumphed in the face of exclusion in the U.S. simply for being a Black woman.

Inclusion Index: Let’s push for accountability with metrics

What gets measured, gets done. One way to speak up is to push for our associations to begin tracking an Inclusion Index (to collect pertinent member data and feelings of belonging within the association) that members can voluntarily elect to complete during the association’s annual membership renewal period.

With an Inclusion Index, subsequent J.E.D.I. goals can more easily be set, monitored and achieved, since inclusion is a foremost ingredient in our diversity recipe. For example, I submitted the following Inclusion Index proposal to the Atlanta Realtors Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Council for a vote (fingers crossed):

  • At the time of membership renewal, along with updating address information, members can optionally checkmark the different pieces of their identity (such as race, ethnicity, nationality, educational attainment, tertiary institution, professional expertise/designations/certifications, tenure, age, disability and health status, sexual orientation, family status, career and parental status, employment status — full time, part-time, flexible working — immigration status, faith, veteran status, English proficiency, languages spoken, etc.).
  • Additionally, members can rate (likely on a five-point Likert scale) their feelings on inclusion with statements such as the following (which can be expanded but should not be condensed):
    • “As a member, I ​​am valued​ for ​my differences and ​my​ unique contributions​​.”
    • “​As a member, I can voice ​my opinions without fear of retribution, penalty or rejection.”
    • “I have confidence in my association’s grievance procedures.”
    • “The association’s event and education programming fit my needs​ (e.g. content, time of day, diversity of speakers, convenient location, etc., with each subpoint being its own survey question)​.”
    • “This association​’s membership​ reflects the surrounding community.”
    • “This association is making a difference in the surrounding community.”
    • “I sense empathy from the association’s leadership.”​
    • “I see people like me in association leadership.”
    • “I feel confident that I can join this association’s leadership.”
    • “I feel confident that if I were to serve in this association’s leadership, my viewpoint would be ​respectfully ​acknowledged and considered.”
  • Importantly, there needs to be an eye-catching instructional statement proceeding the survey that conveys how participation, although optional, can help everyone’s interests be better represented and included in the association.
    • We, as J.E.D.I. agents, may even want to campaign during renewal season at our firms and among other Realtors that we know to increase survey participation.
  • Finally, let’s make sure our associations publicly publish annually the Inclusion Index along with the J.E.D.I. work that the organization has been doing and any progress made. This is critical for accountability and transparency.​

The difference-maker (if we have learned anything from the power of Amazon and Yelp reviews) is us speaking up and out instead of resigning ourselves to sitting still so they — those who outwardly vie for diversity but have not yet committed to the full recipe — look pretty.

Let’s be clear, it is not about us against them, but neither is it about abandoning ourselves for the sake of blind loyalty and compliance at our own expense. These associations are for the members — all members including the underrepresented — so every voice means a great deal.

Speaking up to seek accountability for authentic justice, equity, diversity and inclusion is what this moment requires from us all. It’s everybody versus racism, exclusion and marginalization.

Download today your complimentary (aka no fee but for a limited time, so hurry) copy of my new book, How to Be an Anti-Racist Real Estate Pro. Here’s to your success! 

Lee Davenport is a licensed real estate broker, trainer and coach. Follow her on YouTube, or visit her website.

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