Black lives matter. Black business owners matter. Black real estate agents matter.
I am writing this as a stream of conscious thought after a week and a half of long conversations, educating white people, watching Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd being murdered for simply, being black in America.
Recently, my wife and I opened up a real estate brokerage in Tacoma, Washington. Prior to our business venture I was an educator; 12 years in the classroom as a teacher and three years as an assistant principal.
I currently have an associates degree, bachelors degree (business education), and a master’s degree (educational leadership). I have a real estate license, earned my A+ Certification, I’ve earned a teaching certificate, and administrative certificate.
I say all that to say, no matter what education I have received, or how many books I have read, how many businesses I have owned, or how many videos I have created, I am ‘still nigga’ in America, as Jay-Z eloquently stated on ‘The Story of O.J.’ I have been approached with a gun by law enforcement enough times to forget, experienced countless micro-aggressions, and been mistaken for security more times than I want to count.
Over the course of my professional career, I have become accustomed to being one of few black faces in leadership positions. As a head boys basketball coach, I was among the first black head coaches for boys basketball in the five comprehensive high schools in Tacoma school’s 100+ year history. As an administrator, I understood for the rest of my career, if I stayed in Washington, I would be the only black person on not just my admin team, but one of a few in the entire building. Currently, I am the only black owner in the company I am currently with, Windermere Real Estate. I have been fortunate to be in position to attain these positions, and don’t take them lightly.
When I entered real estate, I was pivoting careers for the same reasons others were: we wanted to provide for our family, create a schedule that would fit us to better support our boys, and help people of all backgrounds find their path in home ownership. Along the way, however, as I kept reading and learning about the industry, I saw a big, black stain (pun intended).
Even though my wife and her peers were outspoken on racism in real estate prior to my career change, admittedly I just didn’t know how pervasive and oppressive it was. Upon learning I thought to myself, ‘Does everyone know this?’ My next thought was, ‘If they do, why are they not doing anything about it?’
The most important question was, ‘Why didn’t I know this?’
As I learned more about the nuances of real estate, I realized the barriers for black realtors were tremendous, from certain ways we approach the business to even getting started in the business. For example, when I heard about door knocking as a sales technique, my first thought was ‘that is not a possibility for me.’ As a 6′2″ black man, in communities that have historically been against my very existence, that’s off the table. Another example is if a client hears ‘Jamal’ (a fictional name) is recommended to help with a home search, they may turn down the opportunity for Jamal to help them despite his expertise in the area. Or when a black realtor is previewing a home and they get chastised by the neighbors that they can’t be in the neighborhood. There are many other examples, and I’m sure when other black realtors speak up, they will be able to share their stories with you. There are ways we can help in this movement in real estate, or at least monitor these things so we can begin to make the changes needed to make at the city, state, and most importantly national level.