Association, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ Leaders Share Insights at Diversity Forum

by Susan Shackelford

At the Charlotte Crown Third Annual Diversity Forum on April 14, Asian, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ leaders gathered to share insights and challenges. Karyn Lindsey was also on hand to spotlight diversity efforts of the Canopy Realtor®Association.

Charlotte Crown is the local chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, perhaps best known as “NAREB.”

The other panelists were all Realtors®:

  • Rachel Chen, founder of the Charlotte chapter of the Asian Real Estate Association of America
  • Martha Borgese, president of the Charlotte chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals
  • Eric Norman, president of the Charlotte chapter of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance

In the 1 1/2-hour presentation over Zoom, each panelist addressed myths, stereotypes and issues facing each group. Realtor® Faith Triggs, first vice president and General Affairs Committee chair of the Charlotte Crown Black Real Estate Association, moderated the panel.

Here are highlights of each presenter’s remarks:

Karyn Lindsey, Canopy Realtor® Association

In her role as vice president of education at Canopy, Karyn Lindsey oversees the Association’s Diversity Council and its educational efforts on diversity and inclusion. Currently, the Diversity Council is promoting a Fair Housing Challenge to the Association’s membership during National Fair Housing Month in April.

“We were leaders with our diversity efforts,” she said of the Association. “It’s been about 15 years since we started having a focus on a diversity program and better ways to serve our members. A lot of associations across the country, based on this past year, were starting from scratch. We felt like we had a leg up. We took what we were doing and tried to buckle down and address member needs.”

She explained that the Diversity Council has African American, Asian American, Latin American and LGBTQ+ advisory groups. The advisory groups allow members to get involved and all together make up the full Diversity Council — which interacts widely within the Association. “One of our goals is to break down stereotypes by giving diverse members the chance to interact outside of their culture,” Lindsey said.

The result of the Diversity Council over time has been broader leadership at the Association. “We have seen more diverse members chair or serve on committees and serve on the board of directors,” Lindsey said. “The Diversity Council is having an impact in our organization.”

Lindsey noted that the Association has a Diversity in Action webpage to promote news, information and events to members. She also stressed that the Association wants to continue working with the organizations represented on the panel. “You are our industry partners,” she said.

Rachel Chen, Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA)

The Charlotte chapter of AREAA recently became one of 42 chapters across the country and is the only one in the Carolinas region. The mission of the group is to promote sustainable homeownership in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, Chen said.

While these groups have experienced discrimination for a long time in the U.S., recent violence is new, Chen said, though it’s not happening often in Charlotte. “Fortunately we are not seeing too many crimes on Asians because we don’t have that many Asians here.”

She noted some people negatively associate Asians with the coronavirus, while others simply discriminate based on accents, appearances and common Asian last names. “We are looking for solutions and how we can create a better community,” she said.

Stereotypes hurt. “Many people think Asians are all higher earners and don’t face discrimination and poverty issues,” she noted, saying the overall poverty rate in the U.S. is 12.4 percent, while it is slightly higher at 12.6 percent for Asians. “Many Asian groups have a high poverty rate,” she continued. “Trying to understand the subcultures in each group is good.”

She noted that audience members on the Zoom meeting are likely all supportive of diversity and inclusion and that it’s important to reach more agents. “I think we need to reframe the issue,” she said. “Tell them how diversity and understanding the cultures could help them get more clients and get more money.”

Martha Borgese, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP)

 “We think homeownership is the center of creation of wealth,” Borgese said of NAHREP. “You do not have to have an accent or roll you r’s like me — you (agents) just have to serve buyers and sellers equally. We have to educate Realtors®.” NAHREP “tries to have a loud voice on policy making to create opportunities like this to find allies.”

COVID-19 has been “devastating to all but particularly the Hispanic population,” she continued. “Hispanics have been hit the hardest because they are often in the service and hospitality industry, especially Latina women. They have a high unemployment rate.”

Stereotypes that Hispanics battle are some people thinking they are all from Mexico. “There is nothing wrong with that, but we are from many countries,” she said. Making the economic case for immigration reform is also an important way to support the Hispanic community.

Among issues Hispanics are currently experiencing, Borgese pointed out that some people make inappropriate comments to buyers, such as “‘Are you sure you can pay for that?’ We also have seen people discriminated against because of a last name. There is huge room for improvement. We have to make sure fair housing is in place and we are treating everybody equally.”

She thanked Canopy Realtor® Association for its diversity and inclusion efforts, particularly “for tools and access and for making us feel safe to be open and say our truth.” She also thanked Crown Charlotte. “You have been an example for us as an organization. It’s good to be surrounded by love and engagement.”

Eric Norman, LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance (Alliance)

The Alliance began nationally in June 2020 and started accepting members last October. “We advocate, educate and celebrate,” Norman said.

The organization’s top advocacy issue is adding sexual orientation and gender identity to state nondiscrimination laws related to housing. “We are trying to get in front of the right organizations to advocate for this change,” he said. (Note: The Realtor® Code of Ethics prohibits discrimination in these respects as does the federal Fair Housing Act, as noted in a Feb. 11, 2021 HUD memorandum.)

Norman pointed out that sellers can legally discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals in 27 states, including North and South Carolina. “Suppose your client wants to buy or rent,” he explained. “As a Realtor® you can’t discriminate, but the seller can decline the offer or application based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and there is no legal recourse.”

Asked about the recent focus in the LGBTQ+ community on pronouns, Norman said using the pronouns someone identifies with is vital. “There is a broad spectrum of how people identify, and the LGBTQ+ acronym doesn’t encompass everything,” he said. For example, “if you have a client who prefers ‘her’ or ‘she’ and you don’t think they present as female — out of basic respect I refer to them how they want to be referred to. I do it out of respect.”

Norman agreed with Chen that diversity and inclusion needs to be reframed as an economic benefit. “The pocketbook is how you attract the most Realtors®,” he said, noting that nearly 70 percent of his business in recent years has been with LGBTQ+ individuals. “They want to feel safe and talk to a professional who won’t judge them. People have money and want to spend it with you because you are respectful.”