Letters to the EditorNews

An Open Letter to Realtors on Racism and Police

I am writing because I wanted to pass on a request and some concerns. It has come to public attention that the Athens Area Association of Realtors published a letter to members encouraging them to express concern about the proposed 50/10 plan in Athens. While I agreed with the suggestion in the letter that much research be done on proposed changes to make sure that we keep our community safe and thriving, the overall tone of the letter was problematic in some other respects.

While you would expect a letter from a professional group to prioritize the strength and success of the profession, the tone came across as prioritizing financial gain over community well-being. And by community well-being, I mean the well-being of all members of a community and not just wealthy, powerful (mostly white) ones. 

We don’t have to look far into the history, policies, laws and practices to see how intensely impactful real-estate practices have been in continuing racial injustices in this country. From redlining to single-family zoning, the effect has been to keep Black people from enjoying the same experience of building wealth and stability through real estate investments. The data is there if we look for it. 

Am I suggesting that the board that published the letter is intending to be racist? Perhaps not. However, we are at a point in our history where we need to choose to be anti-racist in both our personal lives and our professional spheres and policies. To not be proactive in this is to choose to be complicit in further racial injustice. 

I am not suggesting the only right choice is to back commissioners Mariah Parker and Tim Denson’s plan without question. I understand that it is easy to interpret the movement to defund police as a move towards community instability and lack of safety. But in reality, efforts at police reform all over the country have unequivocally failed. (Just ask Minneapolis.) A plan like the 50/10 proposal, in a friend’s words, “…isn’t about dismantling public safety, it’s about better equipping public safety for all that gets thrown at it. It means fewer people will be put in jail or harmed because of misunderstandings, short fuses, and mental illnesses. It means a more caring and empathetic community. Who wouldn’t want to live in that kind of town?” 

I’d like to know what the association is doing to push for positive change. I know that your code of ethics gives guidance to assure equality, but that it is up to the individual Realtor to interpret and apply these ethics. Then it is the responsibility of associations to hold individuals to these standards. So what are you all doing in our current climate to take a stand against racism and to push your members to do so? To make our community strong for all our members? The letter that was sent out in regards to the 50/10 plan gives the impression that you all are fighting to maintain the status quo, which means continued inequality. When will you all make a public statement and take action for change, even if it’s not related to the 50/10 plan? Your communities are counting on your leadership.