Sunday, October 2, 2011

Discrimination in rental market: it still happens, and it can be blatant

What happened to Keisha Willis should be a wake-up call to those people, too many it seems, who think that racial discrimination is not a major problem in America anymore.  Willis, a real estate broker who is black, contacted a landlord in Newton to inquire about a listing and whether he wanted a broker.  The landlord provided some details, and then told Willis that he did not want to rent to those "Africans."  Startled, Willis asked what he meant, and the landlord, Alfred Defazio, made himself clear: he did not want any blacks in his property.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination found Defazio liable for racial discrimination in violation of the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Statute, Chapter 151B.  This ruling should not be surprising.  The case is particularly noteworthy, I believe, because, while the situation was obviously painful and distressing for the victim, it serves as a helpful lesson for Americans at large.  As the government has increasingly enforced laws against racial discrimination, American society has seen less overt racial discrimination.  But that does not mean, necessarily, that there are less racists, or that discrimination does not still occur.  There are people today (even in Newton, Massachusetts) who would post "no blacks allowed" signs if they could; it just happens that most of these people are smarter than this landlord, and achieve their discrimination through subtler means. 

(Apologies for the month long break between posts.  September was particularly busy.)

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