Watch: Taking Action with 'Color of Law' Author, Richard Rothstein, and Leah Rothstein

As featured in Inman News.  

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.

Sidebar: 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 is a starting place for a quick review, “‘There goes the neighborhood’: The history of race and U.S. homeownershipor download the no-fee ebook here.

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/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 The Color of Law and the history of un-fair 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 his co-author of the latest book, Just Action, Leah Rothstein.

We discuss:

+ “I wasn’t around when un-fair 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 un-fair 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 un-fair 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!

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