The Atlanta Realtors Association (ARA) issued its first-ever apology in its 111-year history to association members and the communities they serve for the association’s history of discriminatory practices on Wednesday.
In a video posted on the association’s Facebook page, and a letter posted to the Association’s website, Cynthia Lippert, the 2021 president of the ARA, narrated a detailed apology alongside former and current leaders of the association.
“We have become painfully aware of the historical discriminatory laws of the local, state and federal governments as well as the historical policies and practices of our national, state and local Realtor associations that were on the wrong side of justice, perpetuating racism and creating barriers for the pursuit of owning property,” Lippert said. “There are many historical events, laws, decisions and initiatives that reflected this unfortunate history of hate and discrimination. For all of these issues, we apologize and are remorseful.”
Lippert went on to cite facts documented in “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein that detail how local governments allowed for covenants and deeds that restricted Black homebuyers from purchasing property in certain communities, as well as the widespread use of redlining.
The apology noted how Article 34 of the National Association of Realtors’ Realtors Code of Ethics, between 1924 and 1950, expressly promoted segregation by instructing Realtors to avoid “introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.”
Lippert also called attention to the fact that the ARA only had its first Black president elected in 2015 (Ennis Antoine of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties). The Association’s first female Black president-elect, Karen Hatcher of Sovereign Realty and Management, was elected into office this year and will become president of the association in 2022.
The Association’s apology further expressed the organization’s commitment to positive change and supporting an inclusive, diverse community. Lippert cited the creation of a Diversity Task Force and subsequent creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council over the last year as evidence of the Association’s commitment to these efforts. The ARA also restructured its Four-Year Strategic Plan so that the organization’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mission take priority for all committee efforts.
Back in February, Inman contributor Lee Davenport, an Atlanta-based broker and coach, called out the ATA for having a Diversity and Inclusion Council “in name only.” The Association’s recommitment to these issues now seems to be in part response to Davenport’s criticism then, as well as in response to the greater national unrest seen over the last year or so in the wake of several killings of Black persons by police.
Other Realtors in the area expressed to Inman mixed feelings about the ARA’s apology. The apology came just one day before President Joe Biden signed into law legislation making June 19 a federal holiday observing Juneteenth, a day marking the end of slavery in the United States.
“I appreciate the internal review and public apology,” Nia Knowles, broker at Area West Realty, told Inman in an email. “I believe it is long over due and while, sincere, it is a bit upsetting to once again see ANOTHER company make this apology during this time. A time when ALL companies are making this acknowledgement and PUBLIC apology. It’s difficult to trust the sincerity and hope for real change.”
“I pride myself in being a Realtor — bearing the brand that has equated with a ‘Leader’ in the industry. However, I also have held membership with the Empire Board of Realtists [an Atlanta-based Black real estate organization] because they are the Leaders and front runners in Minority Housing and Advocacy. It is exhausting, and painful to serve in a world where I have to work and BE in both environments simply to do a service role I am called for; ensuring everyone owns where they live and understand ownership is available to them.”
ARA’s apology also noted that in 2021, the ARA leadership team completed unconscious bias training, and a new staff position within the association is currently in the works for someone who will be tasked with forging relationships with diverse affiliate real estate associations (i.e. the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, etc.). The association has also created a task force on Affordable and Equitable Housing in order to provide housing resources for all members of the community.
“We can’t change our history, but we can choose to learn from our past, make current powerful decisions, and act with intention to write future chapters that leave a positive legacy,” Lippert said. “We, the leaders of the Atlanta Realtors Association, are moving forward intentionally to create the most inclusive and powerful Realtors Association by choosing to welcome and value the diversity of our members and communities.”