By Michelle Mills Clement
“I’m sorry” — it’s a simple but powerful statement. An apology not only acknowledges wrongdoing, but provides a platform to begin to move forward.
In 2018 at our commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the Chicago Association of REALTORS® apologized for the role we played in perpetuating and endorsing policies of segregation whose lasting impacts are felt in many of our Chicago neighborhoods today. Being honest about the past, acknowledging it, owning it, and apologizing for it costs nothing and goes so far. Our board of directors and I knew we couldn’t talk about moving forward without addressing our actions and the impact they still have today. We have a number of Chicago REALTORS® who remember all too well that not that long ago, they weren’t allowed to be Chicago REALTORS®. We also have so many members who are products of these policies, and whose kids will continue to feel the results of those policies because the effects will take generations to undo. As a Black woman born and raised in Chicago, I have personally felt the impacts of these past actions.
This November, the National Association of REALTORS® issued an apology for their role in contributing to racial inequity in housing policies. This was a big step, and a long time coming; I applaud NAR for taking this action. These are tough conversations that must happen to begin to move forward.
But these apologies are not an end point; they are a critical first step to open previously fraught communication channels.
Take a moment to imagine what living in a neighborhood that reflects the diversity of all of Chicago may look like. As REALTORS®, we know that our former policies had the power to deny access and segregate communities. This also means we have the power to fix these issues. Together, as an industry, we must be committed to change and to driving our neighborhoods toward this vision.
So, what are some steps you can take to combat unconscious bias, segregation, steering and other fair housing violations?
Training is critical, and there is a wealth of information available to you. At CAR, we’ve made our fair housing continuing education courses free for all our members in 2021. We’re also working on developing a new fair housing education course that will debut midyear. NAR recently launched Fairhaven, an interactive fair housing simulation designed to confront scenarios where discrimination enters the transaction and help you incorporate fair housing principles in your daily interactions. There’s also a test you can take to learn more about unconscious bias on our website.
Another important step you can take is to expand your network. This will benefit everyone who is involved. Creating more diverse networks will make us all stronger, break down barriers and make everyone richer in knowledge. At CAR, our Diversity Committee, “The 77,” has designated a representative for each of the city’s 77 neighborhoods to help tackle real estate and community issues. This is our way of pledging to play a greater role, not only in those communities, but in helping you build those bridges.
Representation is also important. CAR is proud to lead by example in our industry with our incredibly powerful staff and volunteer leadership. We challenge you to ensure your brokerages reflect this diversity, as well at all levels of leadership.
Fair housing is a serious issue, and one that we can all take steps to strengthen; but it takes all of us, acting together, to make a difference. As Chicago REALTORS®, we have the power to create lasting change in our community. Will you commit to making this change with us?
Association news is a new Agent Publishing feature where each month we invite a prominent association executive to share his or her thoughts on important issues of the day and the events taking place in their associations.