Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country. We’ve made great strides in creating more opportunities for conversations that can bring people together. However, when I consider that the Black homeownership rate in Houston is just 29 percent, it is abundantly clear that there is much more to be done.
The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) is one of the best real estate associations in the country. Its strength is diversity. Just because a few diverse Realtors have “made it,” doesn’t mean all have succeeded. It remains a challenge for minority Realtors to be on a fair or even playing field.
So why is this important? Because diversity is the key to success. Diversity doesn’t mean assimilation. No, because if we all thought, acted or believed one way, we wouldn’t benefit from new ideas.
Take this example, for instance. It’s documented in history that an African slave named Onesimus, who was owned by a Boston colonist, shared a smallpox inoculation technique that was used in his native country as a way to protect against the disease. The process later became widely adopted throughout the colonies.
Because of shared ideas, life was better — society improved. Fast forward to now, we all still need to believe in the power of shared ideas and be a part of them. But how do we make progress and encourage more Black voices to rise to the top?
Life is built on relationships
One of the ways that I have found success in moving the needle on greater representation of diverse people in real estate is through relationships. In my experience, if you don’t have relationships, you can’t be invited to the table. I have also discovered that building relationships can help improve diversity. It often takes people out of their comfort zones. This may involve people reframing how they think and changing their thought processes through conversations.
As a former chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors (TAR), I can attest that it works. Through my relationships with TAR members, I was invited to participate in the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors’ strategic planning sessions. Upon arrival, I walked into a room where no one looked like me, and I was glad to hear that one of their goals was to increase diversity.
Often, achieving these committee appointments requires a lot of advocating on your own behalf — which is relationship building. The payoff is significant.
Active recruiting of diverse professionals is critical
In addition to building relationships and advocating for a seat at the table, we can increase representation of Black people in the real estate industry by actively engaging young professionals. Connecting with universities and junior colleges, participating in job fairs and creating mentoring opportunities are great ways to showcase the many options available across the larger real estate ecosystem. In addition to sales, opportunities abound in appraisals, lending, title and inspections.
If a young Black person looked at our industry today and saw the lack of representation, they might assume they aren’t wanted. We have to overcome that perception and create an inclusive industry.
Break the silence because silence is agreement
I understand the tendency to stay neutral in situations that may not directly affect us. We may prefer to mind our own business to avoid conflict. We may remain silent so we don’t alienate ourselves from our own social group. But silence can be perceived as complicit or in agreement with social injustice.
That is why I encourage everyone to speak up, to add to the critical and uncomfortable conversations. I’ve been a radio talk show host for years, and as someone on the frontline of today’s media landscape, I have learned that much of today’s discourse is influenced by a vocal minority.
Said another way, what we hear in the media doesn’t reflect the totality of perspectives in our country. We can only change that if we, too, become more vocal. So if you see something, say something. Being neutral does not mean it has no effect. It perpetuates the status quo.
If we are going to make any inroads on the diversity front, the status quo needs to change. And it is the responsibility of everyone to make that happen.
Shad Bogany is an agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene. A former chairman of the board of the Houston Association of Realtors, Shad was the 2020 Texas Realtor of the Year. You can reach out to Shad on Facebook or LinkedIn.