I don’t think people like to talk about it. It’s easier that way. We’ve made progress, but clearly not enough.
Some of you may have seen the mapping project. It’s fascinating, to say the least. Based on census data they are plotting the racial makeup of cities. Right now, if you went up to a Salem real estate agent and said “I want to live in an area of town with a lot of Hispanics” we can’t legally answer that question due to fair housing laws. We aren’t allowed to steer people towards or away from a specific area based on race, ethnicity…on and on. You know the drill. This law was borne out of necessity when white people wouldn’t sell a black person their home. Oregon had areas of towns where blacks were allowed to live and not live. Let’s face it. That was an ugly time in American history.
We’ve made progress for sure, but this mapping project turns fair housing law on its head.
Go ahead…mosey on over to the map…type in Salem, OR at the top…start hovering. You will see the racial makeup of the census areas pop up. Anyone that wants to live in a part of the city that is similar to their racial/ethnic origins just needs to click. You want to avoid a certain group. Click. You want a diverse neighborhood. Click.
I can honestly say in my 7 years as an agent, only one person asked to avoid a certain ethnic group. I was flabbergasted when it happened because I really didn’t think people would buy a home based on racial criteria. I am interested to see if being this transparent about our ongoing racial divide will help us to move forward, or hold us back. I’m interested to know what you…the local home buyer will do with this kind of information. Other than local school demographics, which is public information, there hasn’t been a way for homebuyers to steer themselves toward or away from certain areas based on race/ethnicity.
It is interesting to see the breakdown of ethnicity. I suppose it’s something that people already know, however. Publishing the data simply affirms common conceptions.
My thought is that lack of information could never end discrimination. We are a long way from being a color-blind people, so perhaps we should focus on discourse and tolerance. When I think about it that way, I say bring on the transparency. At least it changes the closeted whispers into visible conversations.
I like what you said about closeted whispers because when you live in an area you just know. I think it is unfortunate that we can’t have open conversations about racial issues and I would love to have people talking about where we are moving forward and things that pull us back.
Living in the south, I can tell you that I’ve been asked that question many more times than once, Melina. We have always fallen back on the “drive the neighborhood” response to avoid any hint of discrimination on our part, but the reality is that most people want to live near people that are like them. Whether that is based on color, religion, economic status, etc, it’s a concern for a large number of home buyers. Should we be more tolerant of differences? Of course. Are most people? Not really.
Lisa I realized that the map has a pull down section and you can also look at incomes on there as well, although the nature of the homes tends to tell you about people’s incomes.
I think we all know that people prefer to be around people like themselves whether it is education level, income, race, religion, or some other criteria. It’s just easier to relate to someone that you already have some common ground for a friendship. I just find it really jarring to see just how divisive we are and that it occurs the same way in every city. Atlanta which is supposed to be a champion of diversity still had a clear racial divide.