WATCH: Taking action with ‘Color of Law’ author Richard Rothstein

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Dr. Lee Davenport interviews New York Times bestselling author of “The Color of Law,” Richard Rothstein, along with Leah Rothstein, his co-author on the new “Just Action.”

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One of my favorite, encapsulating statements from Richard Rothstein’s quintessential book on how public policy has shaped U.S. real estate, The Color of Law, is:

“Only if we can develop a broadly shared understanding of our common history will it be practical to consider steps we could take to fulfill our obligations.” (p. 198)

I like to sum this up as knowing our collective (national and local) un-fair housing history is like taking the 101 class — it’s the introductory phase of being a well-informed real estate professional. 

There is no shame if you need a refresher on the 101 course of how did we get to this place of needing fair housing laws and advocacy. Here’s  a starting place for a quick review, “‘There goes the neighborhood’: The history of race and U.S. homeownership

It is clear that 101 classes are a good and necessary start (kudos to NAR for making fair housing education a basic requirement of renewal) but there is more to do to get to “graduation,” where we can proclaim a job well done as dynamic, housing opportunity-makers. We have never simply been keyholders and door openers but influencers for our communities. 

To that point, many people (rightfully so) finish reading The Color of Law or leave necessary but short one-and-done fair housing conferences and classes that explain the history of un-fair housing saying “Now that I know this, what can I do in my corner of the world?” 

That palpable audience motivation to do something, anything, that helps repair past unfair housing policies and actions is a win. Yet, that curiosity is an electrifying start on this journey, not the culmination. Paraphrasing the late Dr. Maya Angelou, once we know better, we want to do better — we want to take just action

After delving into The Color of Law and the history of unfair housing (which again is the 101 intro course), on what “Just Action” (a.k.a. the 201 course) should real estate professionals focus? 

Watch this short interview with the guy that literally wrote the book on this, Richard Rothstein, and the co-author of his latest book, Just Action, Leah Rothstein. 

We discuss:

  • “I wasn’t around when unfair housing happened so why should I be responsible for fixing it?” (Note: Federal Fair Housing Laws have been on the books for 55 years, while the average agent is 56 years old. Thus, half of us in the industry (with this number likely growing each day) had no sway regarding unfair housing policies.)
  • How realty firms and local associations can partner in the community.
  • The one well-known service that lawyers offer that real estate firms and associations can adopt to make a big difference in our communities.
  • Pivotal ways to overcome despair and “paralysis of analysis” that some may feel when examining the remaining impacts of unfair housing.

I agree with Leah Rothstein, who proclaims in this interview, “We don’t lack for options, we just need to get started.” Let’s get it!

In the meantime, are you interested in a mastermind group to specifically identify Just Action in your neck of the woods? 

This summer only, I’ll be hosting a no-fee, transformative small group cohort, Opportunity-Makers Mastermind, where you will engage in a journey to learn more about and actively advocate for fair housing. This unique opportunity not only connects you with like-minded individuals but also empowers you to become an opportunity-maker within your community.

Together, we can make a lasting impact on promoting equitable access and opportunity in housing for all.

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

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