Implicit Bias Video Reactions

Wisconsin REALTORS® share their reactions and stories after watching different segments of the National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR) implicit bias video. Watch Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing and learn more at www.wra.org/ImplicitBias.


Tim Klingman

North Shore Homes Inc., Milwaukee

Reaction to: video opening scene

"A video link is set up between a real estate salesperson and a Black man to discuss a home listed by the salesperson. At first, the buyer cannot be seen by the salesperson. During the blank screen greeting, the salesperson shares his excitement that the buyer is interested in his listing. The listing agent mentions that if the buyer has kids, the property is located in one of the best school districts in the area. The buyer mentioned that the home looks perfect.

The buyer’s video is then connected, and the salesperson can see him. The buyer mentions once again that “we love the house, and we are really interested.” The salesperson quipped that it is nice to finally see the buyer, stressing the word “see” in odd fashion. The salesperson then shifted the topic from the subject home to the possibility of other homes, “in case this one isn’t a good fit.”

This approach shows bias by the salesperson because it is the antithesis of what we do as REALTORS®:

  1. We should listen to consumers’ wants and needs, especially when we are first meeting them. I would not bring up the possibility of other homes so quickly. The timing is very suspicious.
  2. Salespersons should be positive when meeting consumers. His approach was negative/pessimistic.

The salesperson assumed that the buyer’s interest in the subject house wasn’t genuine. He exhibited doubt about the buyer’s interest despite the buyer telling him that the home looks perfect and that “we” love it.

The salesperson also started down the path of familial composition, such as school-age children.

The scene in the video made me think about some past experiences:

  • I’ve been in a sales meeting where an agent warned her colleagues of Black buyers who she suspected of being bias testers.
  • My dad was a REALTOR®, and he started working with a Black man who was turned down by other agents in the office. They established a working relationship that resulted in three sales, and the buyer was satisfied with the service provided to him by an agent in a premier, high-performing metro Milwaukee brokerage.
  • I’ve stopped recommending a lender who refused to work with borrowers of inexpensive homes in the city of Milwaukee, which had a disparate impact on minority buyers.
  • I’ve heard REALTORS® talk negatively about my own racially diverse family. Mind you, I had not yet met some of those who were saying such horrible things.
  • I recently spoke with a Black REALTOR® with decades of experience who was pleasantly surprised that I did not hold racially biased views.
  • I’ve heard REALTORS® “tap dance” around race by saying things such as, “we NEVER go to THAT Target,” when it’s obvious what they mean by it.
  • I’ve not hired two potential clients who used the N-word during our consultations. I have fired one on the spot for using the N-word."

Annie Zambito

Compass Wisconsin, Lake Geneva

Reaction to: "real estate agents as gatekeepers and guides" video segment

"Imagine receiving the bad news your application wasn’t approved for your dream apartment only to scroll down the email chain to read the decision was made out of blatant racism.

Like a swift kick to the gut. That’s how it felt for me listening to that story in Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers in Fair Housing by NAR.

I hope I never receive an email like this. However, I acknowledge the fact that real estate agents were once selective gatekeepers. To ensure history doesn’t repeat itself, I strongly encourage my fellow REALTORS® to take the implicit bias test as a starting point on the path toward an equitable and fair housing market.

With implicit bias training, you can improve your interpersonal relationships, in and out of work, and help finally put an end to discrimination in the real estate market, one transaction at a time. 

'You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.' — CS Lewis."


Reaction to: "understanding our unconscious brains and the stroop test" video segment

"Everything our body does is controlled by our brains, whether we are aware or not. For example, let’s say you go hiking with a friend. Your conscious mind is navigating you from point A to B, noticing the rain and avoiding mud puddles; meanwhile, your unconscious brain is exchanging gases in your lungs, sending your arms out for balance, spotting that mountain lion in your peripheral vision and instantaneously dumping adrenaline into your bloodstream so you’re able to RUN!

The human brain is an incredibly complex organ. Today, it’s considered common knowledge that we have both a conscious and an unconscious mind working together to keep us alive. We also know our unconscious processes much more than our conscious mind. To demonstrate the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind, psychologists and academics like to use the Stroop Test because it can be self-administered, it’s quick and produces an instant result. As a former student researcher at Marquette University, I’m very familiar with the Stroop Test. 

Simply put, the Stroop Test is a way to measure your brain’s flexibility. The NAR video Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing highlights this test (starting here), demonstrating our unconscious minds' implicit bias of words over colors. Our unconscious mind has much more ‘real estate,’ if you will, dedicated to reading words than to color recall, even though we learned the names of colors first. This presents a challenge when our unconscious mind misguides the conscious based on inaccurate implicit biases held. However, the first step in positive change is acknowledging the discrepancy exists.

There are many tools offered by NAR as part of its implicit bias training. As the WRA Cultural Diversity Chairperson, I hope others will take this opportunity to do a little self-inventory with the resources available to us as REALTORS®. Let’s grow, together. For the better. That’s Who We R®."


Rae McWhorter

Coldwell Banker, Racine

Reaction to: "blockbusting" video segment

"Blockbusting is panic selling with an attempt to influence sales of a particular area of white homeowners/rentals/developers’ properties. It plays off and exploits homeowners' fears and prejudices of others that do not look like them. Tactics such as signs, mass fliers, phone calls and even people being planted in that community to help with negative influencing, among other tactics, are used to influence white homeowners to sell their properties quickly and at a lower rate. Once that has happened, the homes will then be sold back to minorities at a higher price. This is called upselling. This went on legally all over the U.S. for years prior to the Federal Fair Housing Act being implemented.

Blockbusting was also being used by developers who also got into the game because once the homes were all sold, developers would come in and buy up the land for pennies on the dollar and make huge profits for them as well as the real estate agents.

Blockbusting put Blacks into a precarious position, making it difficult to get loans to make improvements in their homes. You can't talk about blockbusting without mentioning "white flight," which occurred when the dip in housing standards lowered property values even more and, as white residents left the city, they took their tax base and dollars with them, further depressing the market values.

I grew up on the south side of Racine near the lake, and as a matter of fact, it was no more than a five-minute walk to the lake, and the entire time I was there, I never saw any white people in my area except for the big stately mansions near downtown. But from time to time, I would hear people and my friends from school say, “I used to live on that side of town many years ago, but then my family moved away to West highway 94 or ‘up north’ and other areas of the city.” I always wondered why someone would leave this area with the lakefront and these beautiful brick homes. My husband and I were among the first Black people to move into the area I live in now, and our moving in had our neighbors scared — we know because they told us so 10 years into our 17-year stay. We have all been friends since the first day we moved in, but I found it interesting that my husband and I were the talk of the neighborhood for a while, and we didn't know it.

The Fair Housing Act has made it so that this discrimination and blockbusting will not happen to anyone of any color again, and if it does, there are laws now to protect. I am a REALTOR® and a Black woman, and it's hard for me to believe REALTORS® did these unspeakable acts, but our country was going through and dealing with human rights and civil rights issues at that time and still to this day. So I am grateful and thankful for the Fair Housing Act."


Luis Garcia

Homestead Realty Inc, Wauwatosa

Reaction to: "what is bias" segment

"My view on bias is picking a side, drawing that line in the sand that keeps us all divided. Implicit bias is looking at people and tying in stereotypes and attitudes toward them or about them without even acknowledging we are. We just have to remember that each person is an individual, a human being. Also remembering who we are today is not who we were yesterday or will be tomorrow, and we should not make an opinion on a person from a snap picture view of them because we are so much more than that. As an example, yesterday I was wearing a hoodie, and today I’m in slacks and a tucked-in button up, it doesn’t change who I am as a person based on my appearance. Never judge a book by its cover, read more into it so you have a better understanding of what the book is about before making a decision.

In the study of the facial cues in the video where they had four pictures of a white man and four pictures of a Black man but with the same facial expressions from mad to happy. Even while writing this, I picked the 4th picture for the white man to be happy and the 3rd picture of the man of color. It has me asking, how could the same facial expression be different based on color? It tells me even in our awareness of implicit bias, we have to put more effort in understanding ourselves and the way we view the differences in people."


Reaction to: "anxiety" video segment

"Anxiety is something I know way too well — even in writing this, I have it. How could summarizing a 27-second section of the NAR video, “Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing,” make me feel what is described in the video? Identity anxiety and worry about being perceived in a bad light usually brings feelings, shorter interactions with others, avoidance or freezing up. In the video, it also talks about Blacks being concerned that they will come across as being hostile, or whites fearing that they will be looked at as being racist or bias. 

I have a few examples I can use, but the one I’m choosing to share is close to home, and I hope it brings awareness to all who read this. I had a colleague (let’s call him Ronald) who is proudly political, and he’s always bringing it into conversations and making plenty of political posts on social media. I hear politics when he speaks, but some of my colleagues of color are hearing racism in what he says and supports. I can feel the anxiety building in those colleagues during certain conversations they have with Ronald, or I can see them avoiding conversations and freezing up saying nothing. I honestly don’t believe Ronald knows the other colleagues are feeling that way about him. I’m left wondering, if he was aware of it, would it change his approach when the topic of politics arises? And would there be that fear, as stated above, of being looked at as racist or biased? Not sure what the solution is because we all have the right to voice our opinions, but I think we should be aware of when it's making people uncomfortable. And for those feeling some type of way, I hope you find the courage to overcome that anxiety and express how you're feeling in a positive manner, so it’s a conversation of understanding and peace. 

We all just need to get out of our heads and “be the change we want to see in the world” like the words of Gandhi. Anxiety can be overcome with being true to ourselves, getting out of our heads and taking action. Once you focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want, it all becomes easier with every step you take in that direction. 

I am trying to see the world as it should be, racist and bias-free, so I am not going to judge people. It is my belief that if we learned how to show people who we truly are, they can see past the color of our skin, the accents of our voice or even how we dress. Then hopefully anxiety wouldn’t exist in the world."


Tatyana Bratishko

Shorewest REALTORS®, New Berlin

Reaction to: "interventions/bias override protocols" segment

"It is with a hopeful heart that I’m writing today to ignite the spark of change. Change toward improving the business practices in our industry in regard to accessibility features.

Let’s start with one licensee — usually stressed, time pressured, always multi-tasking. As a newer agent several years ago, I met the buyers on a sunny summer afternoon. They were wearing sunglasses. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. Later I was told that one of the buyers was legally blind. The transaction didn’t close. One of the reasons, in my opinion, was my lack of experience in working with people with visual disabilities, despite my best intentions. 

Since then, my awareness caused a change in my business. 'When visual and hearing-impaired people are looking for housing, things could be easily missed …' per Alexia Smokler, the National Association of REALTORS® Senior Policy Representative/Fair Housing. 'We need to have standardized practices and so that you are treating everybody the same. Treat everyone fairly … have the standard policies in place … let the client lead …' she continued.

When we meet new clients at the office, we ask the questions about their preferences in regard to location, features, price, financing options … how about asking if they have any special needs in order to serve them better? We want to treat them fairly, with the utmost respect and have the most current and complete information available in order for us to be successful.

If my clients have a need for any accessibility features, I know that we have a system in place — two updated Accessibility Features Reports featured on the WRA website.

Per psychologist Nathaniel Branden — 'The first step toward change is awareness …

My awareness caused the change not only in my business. Now I am fighting for more fair housing issues with a team of REALTORS® passionate for fair housing values. Please join us at the Cultural Diversity in Housing Committee, ask your questions and help to develop more protocols and standards to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. Let’s make the implicit bias training useful and combine it with strategies, policies and practices that convey respect, ensure fairness and improve business standards. Let your awareness cause the change.
"


Brad Lois

Bear Realty, Burlington

Reaction to: "historical context and stereotypes" segment

"The Irish Catholics in this country were originally seen by others as promiscuous, hard-drinking savages. Other groups such as the Germans and Italians were also seen negatively, but they are now all seen as white. After World War II, the FHA and VA guaranteed loans for them to purchase homes, but there were no guaranteed loans for Blacks and browns as the redlining maps hardened segregation. Thus, people could not integrate if they were not white. The Irish and the Germans and Italians were in the same neighborhoods and had backyard BBQs, went to the same schools and attended PTA together. They learned about one another, and the old stereotypes disappeared. But if we don’t live together in our neighborhoods, our opinions of other groups don’t come from personal experience but rather from the media and other sources.

I believe that the first step to overcoming historical context and stereotypes relating to discrimination and bias in real estate is admitting that it happened, in extremely suppressive ways that we’re still seeing the impacts of today. Consider for a moment just how impactful it is in a market like we’re in today to be able to sell a home and to use the increased equity to make that leap into the next home, most likely a more expensive home in a different neighborhood. Admitting that from the very beginning people of color weren’t offered incentivized programs to own a home helps to explain why we are where we are today. 

Generally speaking, white homeowners have always had that privilege to move on and move up due to having some of the first incentivized opportunities to own. Those people of color who have leapfrogged this disadvantage into many stepped-up neighborhoods, or even just into homeownership at all, are the exception, not the constant. The most unfortunate part about this is that even when some are able to beat the odds that history has stacked against them, they’re still viewed as outsiders in those neighborhoods, not as equals … because again, they’re the exceptions, not the constant. To make an impact to change history on this issue will take a lot of work and a lot of communication. Communication amongst those in our industry first to admit that this plays a crucial role in where we are today, and second with our consumers to bring more light to our understanding of the issue and of our desire to work together to fix it!
"


Bob Haglund

First Weber Inc., Greenfield

Reaction to: "schemas" segment

"What are schemas? Schemas help us intake many thoughts and process them in a certain manner. They rather instinctively make certain discussions about what direction/action we may take in dealing with these thoughts, and sometimes many thoughts that reach our brains based upon some activity or interruption we experience. In essence, they help us function when many stimuli hit us at once. These are based on a concept described as implicit social cognition.

It provides a pathway as to how we make it through our day.

It allows us to be adaptive, which helps us navigate certain situations and experiences.

The process creates categories in our brain and mind that can create barriers, which can lead to bias and stereotypes. The result can be experiences and actions that can be both negative and positive.

For example, age. When witnessing elderly drivers, what thoughts or reactions do we have? How do we process these thoughts?

Do we negatively judge, assuming falsely that he/she is a poor driver? Or are they just being careful and practicing safe driving habits? How do we respond? What barriers do we set?

Today’s media plays a role in how we think and process much of this information and how we respond.

For example, when driving behind someone driving slow or perhaps a bit erratically, we tend to look at the driver when passing to see if that driver is elderly. Why? Because we may assume that they are either distracted or no longer have the driving skills needed to safely drive a car.

I was never taught this in drivers ed class! How then did I come to believe or assume this? Did I hear it? Do I repeat it? Did something happen to me to cause me to believe this stereotype?  Rather, I’ve heard that implication from others more than once but also in the media and movies/television.

This then causes me to wonder if/how insurance companies view an elderly driver who has not had an accident or violation in many years? Insurance rates are based too on assumptions and statistics, which assume likelihood of future results, based upon prior occurrences. I will need to examine this further.

These thoughts tend to happen automatically, but why? Do they occur as a result learned experiences? How can one adapt and modify these responses?

The example of waiting in a clinic or an emergency room for treatment or a shot or vaccination when a technician approaches to treat you. If that person is not dressed like a professional, i.e.: a nurse, a med. tech or a doctor, what do we think? How do we react? Do we get nervous? Do we question …?

Implicit bias: It emerges from our brains. We all have it."


Marie Janzen

Shorewest REALTORS®, South Metro

Reaction to: "colorblindness" segment

"Many people were raised to think that colorblindness was the answer and was the way to be fair, but as the implicit bias research shows, we can't be colorblind — we see the differences between different groups, and frankly many people feel like their identity (racial, religious, etc.) is a really important part of who they are. The goal is to de-link stereotypes from identities so we can see people from the identity group that is important to them and also for the unique human being they are.

Colorblindness can also lead to the exact opposite behavior to fairness. This is caused by identity anxiety or racial anxiety. This is when in a cross-group interaction, the concerns that people have about the differences leading to that interaction not going well. If you're part of the non-dominant group (a person of color), the concern might be: am I going to experience discrimination, stereotyping, hostility or invalidation because of my identity? If you're part of the dominant group, the concern might be: am I going to be perceived as racist or biased? The anxiety and worry about being perceived a certain way can translate to behaviors that fulfill that perception — shorter interactions, avoidance, cognitive shutdown.

Growing up as a mixed-race immigrant had its challenges. I often leaned on colorblindness as I did not feel a connection to my racial identity and often felt like an imposter if I did. In high school, I was in a program that bussed city kids to the suburbs so they could receive a better education. It wasn't until I was put in that environment that I realized what it meant to be a minority. I went from a very diverse landscape to almost no diversity, and that's when I realized accepting my identity was crucial, not only for myself, but for those who came from a similar background to me. From there, I became a first-generation college graduate and a first-generation homeowner. I became a REALTOR® because homeownership changed my life. I bought my house when I was 25, and it was the first time I understood what stability was. There is a statistic that says the average person knows three REALTORS® — I did not know any. When you begin reading other statistics around homeownership regarding different identity categories, you see how much harder and longer the road to homeownership can be for others.

As a REALTOR®, I believe we are advocates for our clients and can be instrumental in creating thriving communities. If we are colorblind, we are not acknowledging the real issues and are not living up to our potential. Racial anxiety in the real estate market could translate to negative practices, such as steering. Colorblindness discourages conversations, ignores the reality of systemic racism and doesn't allow people to examine or overcome their own biases."


Marty Reed

Compass Wisconsin, Glendale

Reaction to: "why diversity is best for our children" segment

"Strength lies in differences, not in similarities; diversity is really good for us. Research shows that when we are surrounded by people that look different from us, our brains act in a more rigorous fashion.

When making a decision surrounded by people that look alike, our brain assumes that we all agree with one another. Our brains go into what’s referred to as “group think.” Our decisions are more error-prone, and we think less diligently because we are all going along the same path. We are all in consensus, and we think that the conclusion is obvious. Whereas, in a diverse group, no one presumes that anyone thinks like them and they tend to pay more attention to the facts. They will get more correct answers, better fact-based decisions, and fewer gut-based reactions.

This is particularly true for our schools and neighborhoods. Studies show that living and learning in an ethnically diverse environment is critical in helping our children develop individual leadership competencies. Children who go to integrated schools learn organically how to work with diverse others. They learn to understand other’s needs and to creatively problem-solve. Ultimately, integrated neighborhoods lead to integrated schools, which as we can see is a win-win all the way around.

I have always lived in a diverse community; I went to school around diverse others, and have friendships with those of diverse backgrounds. I know that growing up in a diverse environment has benefited me as a REALTOR®. I find that helping my clients through the real estate process requires the skills acquired through my upbringing and exposure to diverse others. I have to take into perspective where my client is coming from and creatively adapt so that I can meet their needs."

‘A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions and outcomes from everyone.’ — Sundar Pichai"

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