Success Stories

Columbus REALTORS® Launches Book Club as a Safe Space for Tough Conversations

November 2020

The events of the past several months, the George Floyd murder and the ensuing protest around the country and abroad, have put us all in a space where we’ve been reassessing how we treat one another, learning about our differences and learning to celebrate those differences as a strength both in community and in business.

Columbus REALTORS® has also been seeking solutions to how we can become a more open and inclusive Association. Many experts agree, “there is relative ‘safety’ in using literature to practice ‘what if’ scenarios about our own capacity to empathize with the pain of others and in recognizing how power and privilege can contribute to material, political or emotional harm.”

In our effort to create that safe space, our Diversity & Inclusion Committee launched a Book Club for members to have open, honest (and sometimes tough) conversations about race, racism, diversity, and inclusion.

To make these discussions beneficial for our members, we felt it important to bring in the authors to interpret the meaning of their book, and how we can use what we learn in the discussion to enhance our diversity and inclusion programming.

Our first book club selection was “The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein and our first book club event featured a virtual “Conversation with Richard Rothstein” on Oct. 14, 2020.

Illuminating, enlightening, insightful, an incredible history lesson, great presentation, excellent program was just a few of the comments used to describe this event.

When undertaking a new project, particularly one dealing with race, racism, diversity, and inclusion, you never know how it will be received by your audience (members), but the feedback as noted above has been nothing but positive.

Mr. Rothstein provided a wealth of knowledge on the history of segregation in our country. Sharing how racial segregation characterizes every metropolitan area in the U.S. and bears responsibility for our most serious social and economic problems – it corrupts our criminal justice system, exacerbates economic inequality, and produces large academic gaps between white and African American schoolchildren. Serious steps to desegregate neighborhoods are hobbled by a national myth that residential segregation is de facto—the result of private discrimination or personal choices that do not violate constitutional rights. He demonstrates in his book, however, that residential segregation was created by racially explicit and unconstitutional government policy in the mid-twentieth century that openly subsidized whites-only suburbanization in which African Americans were prohibited from participating. It is only after learning the history of this policy can we be prepared to undertake the national conversation necessary to remedy our unconstitutional racial landscape.

There were 125 members in attendance for this virtual conversation — a good start for a pilot project. Our goal is to increase those numbers with each book club selection and event and anticipate attendees becoming our book club ambassadors, sharing with their colleagues their thoughts on the club, the books we are reading, and the conversations we anticipate having with book authors.

Mr. Rothstein is a distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute, and a Senior Fellow (emeritus) at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In addition to his recent book, The Color of Law, he is the author of many other articles and books on race and education. We anticipate having more conversations with Mr. Rothstein and expanding our partnership with him through his National Fair Housing Alliance Group.

Our next book club selection is Begin Again by Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., and we anticipate our “Conversation with Dr. Glaude” set for Wednesday, March 18, 2021, 1-2p, will be just as educational and thought provoking as our first book club event.

For more information on the important diversity and fair housing work of the Columbus REALTORS®, contact Lynn Hackworth.

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