It Seems That We All Have Racism on Our Minds. Here Are My Thoughts.

It has certainly been an interesting and emotional two weeks since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Rita and I have been happy to add our voices, and are impressed at the longevity and the worldwide spread of the demonstrations.

On Sunday afternoon, there was an event in downtown Golden, which the two of us attended.  (See the picture  by Chris Davell of Goldentoday.com below.) It was followed by a march through downtown Golden, although Rita and I didn’t stay for that.

The event was organized by a group called Golden United. I have attended several prior events by this wonderful organization, headed by Golden resident Ron Benioff. You will probably read about it elsewhere in this newspaper since I met the reporter covering it. Several hundred people attended the event in Parfet Park, most of them wearing masks and all socially distanced.

It was, of course, very peaceful. After all, this is Golden, a college town that is majority liberal, majority white, and my home for the past 23 years. A city councilor, JJ Trout, emceed the event, giving a very thoughtful speech of her own. Mayor Laura Weinberg also spoke.  Both displayed great introspection and deep thought on the topic of racism. Ron Benioff spoke, stressing that being non-racist is no longer enough. We all have to be anti-racist.

The police chief, Bill Kilpatrick, was there with one other officer and received generous applause at the mention of his sensitive letter to the community which he wrote shortly after the death of George Floyd. (That was followed this week by a lengthy posting on the city’s website outlining police practices and training related to implicit bias, the use of force and other topics raised following George Floyd death.)

I have a couple thoughts to share beyond my sincere appreciation for Golden United and our city’s political leaders.

First of all, I feel that we are overlooking anti-Hispanic racism, which is just as pervasive as anti-black racism. It was the first and remains the greatest expression of racism by our current president, who opposes even legal immigration from people of any color other than white. (Remember his comment about Norwegians being more desirable than Hispanics?)

It’s my perception, and perhaps yours, that whites and the police are not as fearful of Hispanics as they are of African-Americans, but they still don’t view Hispanics as equally valuable human beings.

I certainly value and appreciate our Hispanic population and especially the Mexican-Amercans and their undocumented cousins who work tirelessly and with seeming contentment at so many jobs which other Americans are unwilling to perform — picking our vegetables and fruits, repairing or replacing our roofs, and collecting our trash alongside African-Americans.  (It was heart-warming last week to read a post on NextDoor urging neighbors to tape dollar bills to the lids of our trash carts as a way of thanking our trash collectors.)

Not only do we as a white society insufficiently appreciate our black and Hispanic population, our regressive laws work to keep that population impoverished. We need to address our anti-poor policies — which are really pro-wealthy policies, such as the Trump tax bill of 2017 — which have widened the gap between rich and poor in America.

Real estate, at least in the Denver market, is a majority white industry, not representative of the racial diversity of the metro area. I can say with confidence that it’s not reflective of any anti-black discrimination in hiring.  My first partner in real estate with whom I co-listed properties was an African-American woman who I miss working with. She remained with Coldwell Banker when I moved to RE/MAX Alliance before starting Golden Real Estate.

My seven broker associates are all white, but they and I would welcome with open arms one or more African-American and Hispanic agents to join our ranks.  It is hard to say why our industry has not attracted more African-Ameri-can brokers, but I’ve noticed a large contingent of Hispanic agents, who even have a highly active association.  I’ve attended their events.

For this column, I interviewed two of the three blacks who serve on the 18-member board of directors of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. That ratio, it should be noted, is better than the ratio of blacks who are members of DMAR.

Milford Adams, managing broker of Lyons Realty Group LLC in southeast Denver, told me that economics are the primary reason there aren’t more blacks in the industry, since it’s hard for a new agent to get established in the business without significant cash reserves. (I know this personally, since it was two years of expenses exceeding income before I myself started making a living in real estate.)  And, yes, he said he has experienced discrimination, much of it subtle, at every turn as he himself rose through the profession.

Lori Pace, of Kentwood Real Estate in the City Properties office in downtown Denver, has been an activist within the profession and operates a strategic consulting business, offering training to real estate brokerages (see her website, www.LoriPace.com) in the area of recruitment and diversity training.  On that website you can also watch her TEDx talk “Philanthroperty,” which was about inspiring women, not just minority women, to invest in “real estate, not purses,” to grow in wealth and power.

The following was submitted by Lori Pace regarding the program she teaches on diversity:

Everyone’s experience matters and how we live, make a living, and lose lives. There is no such thing as a stupid white question, but there is certainly are intellectual black answers. The Diversity Difference is an essential wellness program illustrating how real estate and health equity impact everyone’s ability to breathe or exhale. 

The Diversity Tool Kit is THE ventilator allowing everyone the opportunity and right to exist and not resist.  It is designed to develop a multicultural, multi-generational mindset. The live and virtual keynote address combines a training series with first-hand accounts and stories on doing business while being Black in America.  It is more than a call to action. It is a collaborative, result-driven process tackling multi-layers of problems and resolutions examining metrics, business strategies, and tools for real-life situations.  Passive conversations become proactive actions.

This is a resource to ensure strategic, proactive, and sustainable ACTIONS that can be implemented immediately.  The agenda is based on an inspirational and REAL approach providing new perspectives for all industries, organizations, and institutions ready to implement a blueprint from a black perspective.

Participants gain a new outlook and opportunity to breakdown and understand how systematic racism in businesses and communities continues to be influenced by the power of segregation and money. Transparency and trusting safe cultures are non-negotiable in order to move forward. The experiential learning deals with Fair Housing and intentional and unintentional Unfair Business Practices. It is time to invest in business, social and emotional “Black and Blue Print” to change your PACE unapologetically with a high return on your investment.

The Real Estate industry and brokerages are major players influencing ALL communities, neighborhoods, business, and institutions.  There is a new demand for answers to awkward questions and circumstances requiring a no-judgment solution. Now more than ever, the world is aware of the negative impacts of silence and ignoring the blinders that have been abruptly removed.

As the Housing Crisis Deepens, Zoning Laws Are in the Crosshairs

In December 2018, Minneapolis made news when it abolished single-family zoning. That began a nationwide conversation about the use of zoning laws to restrict growth and density at a time when housing affordability was worsening and homelessness was increasing.

One of our broker associates, Chuck Brown, attended the National Association of Realtors convention last November in San Francisco. I had attended the same convention there several years ago. I hadn’t noticed many homeless people on the streets back then, but Chuck reported that it was way out of control now, with the streets overcrowded with homeless people.

You, like me, have probably followed the coverage of homelessness in Denver, with that city passing an urban camping ban, which was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court but is still being enforced pending an appeal by the city. It could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

The conversation over zoning created by Minneapolis 13 months ago is growing louder. That’s because the history of zoning is one of intentional discrimination. In researching this topic, I read a Fast Company posting on the history of zoning in San Francisco.. After the 1906 earthquake, the Chinese population there was targeted by zoning changes designed to promote and protect white enclaves. This was long before there were federal laws making discrimination based on race or national origin illegal.

That Fast Company article included the following detail regarding the role of the mortgage industry: “In 1934, as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was established to insure private mortgages. The FHA’s underwriting handbook included guidelines that pushed cities to create racially segregated neighborhoods and encouraged banks to avoid areas with ‘inharmonious racial groups,’ essentially meaning any neighborhood that wasn’t exclusively white.”

Another New Deal program to help homeowners threatened with foreclosure to refinance their home with low-interest long-term mortgages, provided lenders with “safety maps” which used red shading for risky areas which were under “threat of infiltration of foreign-born, negro, or lower grade population.”  This is the origin of the term “redlining,” and the practice wasn’t outlawed until the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Last week I attended a meeting of the Group Living Advisory Committee in Denver’s municipal building, where they are discussing a zoning amendment which would dramatically increase the number of unrelated persons who can live in a single family home. You can expect this proposal to arise in suburban jurisdictions, too, even if they don’t follow Minneapolis in getting rid of single-family zoning altogether.

I’ll be reporting again as this conversation evolves. Don’t shoot me. I’m just the messenger.