Real (Estate) Talk: Is NAR Mentorship Overzealous Charity Work Or Rightful Amends?

As featured in my monthly column on race and real estate in Inman News.

Have you heard about one of NAR’s fairly new initiatives to increase proficiency among all new agents?

From NAR site: "NAR Spire kicks off this month and runs through October. This mentorship program, devised and developed by NAR members and staff over recent years, offers mentees the opportunity to work directly with and receive valuable one-on-one guidance from a current REALTOR®. By allowing mentees to see the industry from multiple angles and perspectives, NAR hopes new and aspiring professionals will be able to find the career path that suits them best. Launched back in the spring of 2021, NAR Spire specifically targets multi-cultural, minority communities throughout the U.S. in an effort to build some much-needed bridges to the real estate industry, one that has historically lacked racial and ethnic diversity. Although the application and matching process for this year is closed, those interested in participating next year can apply by visiting this link:” 

Wait! I do not want to breeze pass the statement “...the real estate industry, one that has historically lacked racial and ethnic diversity”. 

Did you know that REALTORS® once excluded anyone that was not a white male from having this professional status? Specifically, part of the reason “realtor” was trademarked initially in the 1920s was “so Black real estate professionals were not legally allowed to refer to themselves as ‘realtors’” (source: Todd Michney, Georgia Tech History Professor).

It is important that NAR is trying to better represent all of the communities in which we REALTORS® work. We can applaud this. 

However, in this attempt, it is important to name why this is needed. To say our industry has “historically lacked racial and ethnic diversity” does not put the onus of actual exclusionary policies squarely on NAR. Without this contextual acknowledgment, some may feel NAR is going too far in what simply may appear to be overzealous charity work because of missing discussion about the full backdrop around why specific repairs like this matter.

Sure, there have been needed apologies (here and here). But each new initiative that chips away at an exclusionary past also needs to “stage the listing” (that’s my way of saying “set the table” aka the precursor to properly present the main thing) by retelling why.

I hope NAR (and our firms) will continue to create initiatives that rectify discriminatory policies we as an industry had in place and -- just as importantly -- begin to explain (with each new initiative for context) why NAR is both repairing the past and forging ahead as a leader of inclusion.

Please do not misunderstand. For the National Association of REALTORS® to now (beginning in 2021 — nearly 100 years late but we’ll take it) offer mentorship to everyone that also specifically "targets" (their word) Black, AAPI, Indigenous and Latino/Hispanic is a step in the right direction! 

By the way, Black, AAPI, Indigenous and Latino/Hispanic are collectively UNDER-represented at only about 13% of the recent REALTOR® membership (source: NAR). If this were proportionate representation to the 2020 U.S. Census makeup, this 13% would be closer to 38%. Yikes!

Thus, we indeed need this mentoring initiative (and more at the firm level like this) to see full representation of our communities. But, make no mistake, this is not just our industry doing it out of the goodness of our hearts. Our industry created harm and we have a collective responsibility to make things right/better.

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