Singer John Legend asked the real estate industry to focus on housing discrimination instead of fixing ‘fake’ problems, like removing ‘master’ from multiple listing service descriptions
The Houston Association of REALTORS®’ decision to ditch the terms “master” in multiple listing service descriptions went viral last Saturday, June 27, after singer-songwriter John Legend publicly called the trade organization’s resolution a distraction from the housing discrimination Black American face as part of their homebuying journey.
In a tweet to his approximately 5.4 million followers, Legend linked to the gossip site TMZ’s article on the Houston Association’s decision.
“Real problem: realtors don’t show black people all the properties they qualify for,” the “All of Me” singer wrote. “Fake problem: calling the master bedroom the master bedroom. Fix the real problem, realtors.”
Legend’s response earned 437.2K likes, 97.3K retweets, and 3.1K replies, many of which linked back to Newsday’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Long Island Divided” investigative reportthat revealed widespread housing discrimination against buyers of color, especially Black buyers.
“Too often people focus on the superficial and maybe get fooled into a sense of accomplishment when the superficial is ‘fixed,’” said a Twitter user using the nom de guerre “Beatrix Kiddo.” “Meanwhile, nothing systemic is changed.”
“We as an industry have issues,” added broker-owner Chavi Holm. “Let’s call it owners suite.”
“And we need to Hire Black managers, increase Black homeownership, recruit more Black agents (5 percent is not enough), and remove historic racist language from title reports,” she added.
Although many commenters agreed with Legend’s stance, others took issue with his assertion that racial discrimination is a wide-spread problem in the real estate industry. Legend responded to real estate agents who disagreed, some of whom deleted their tweets over the weekend.
“Me saying this is a real problem doesn’t mean that you, offended real estate agent, do it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean 100 percent of you do it.”
“It means it’s widespread and well-documented enough to be an actual issue,” he added. “As my grandfather/pastor used to say, ‘I’m not talkin’ bout u unless it’s u.’ If you’re not doing it, thank you.”
He concluded, “But also show some leadership by recognizing that it’s real and encouraging your colleagues to do better.”
REALTOR® Association Responds
The Houston Association of REALTORS® responded to Legend’s tweet, noting the change was requested from HAR members and is only one part of their work combating housing discrimination.
“Agreed,” HAR tweeted. “We are trying to do our part by educating REALTORS® and consumers about the real issues surrounding race. This is just what everyone has chosen to focus on out of everything else we are trying to do to enact positive change. #RacismHasNoHomeHere.”
In an Inmanarticle publishedthat Wednesday, an HAR spokesperson explained the process for removing “master bedroom” and “master bathroom” from MLS descriptions and the reasons for doing so.
“Many members responded favorably but expressed a variety of reasons for supporting a change,” a HAR spokesperson told Inman. “We also received a number of emails from members requesting we look at changing the terms.”
“Some of the people who saw the Facebook post were members of the MLS Advisory Group, so the terms were added to the agenda, along with eight other items inside Matrix to review (such as showing if a property has an electric vehicle charging station and the direction a balcony faces),” the spokesperson added. “The list of updates was passed by the advisory group and sent to the HRIS board of directors, which oversees the MLS and HAR.com. The updates were approved.”
The criticism of HAR’s decision is part of a larger discussion about national corporations’ responses to the month’s protests and calls for racial equality, which some Black Americans see as an attempt to avoid making real changes.
“Black people don’t care if [you] stop saying “master bedroom” or if [you] remove problematic shows from decades ago from Hulu,” said Twitter user Bocxtop in a tweet with 321.3K likes. “Black people want an end to police brutality and institutionalized racism.”