Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS® Sponsors Event at Museum Exhibit Revealing the History and Legacy of Redlining

Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS® Sponsors Event at Museum Exhibit Revealing the History and Legacy of Redlining

April 2023

Last year, the Johnson County Museum in Overland Park, Kansas mounted an in-depth exhibition called REDLINED: Cities, Suburbs, Segregation. Drawing on extensive local documentation, it explored redlining’s origins in Kansas City, and how communities across the country still suffer from the legacy of the now-abolished real estate practice. With support from a REALTOR® Party Fair Housing Grant, the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS® (KCRAR) hosted a special evening viewing at the museum for its members to learn about – and learn from – the troubling past of their industry.

KCRAR’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee designed the two-hour private viewing and reception to encourage ongoing education and awareness, said Member Outreach Manager Patti Dauer, who serves as the committee’s staff liaison along with Amber Vandegrift, KCRAR’s Content & Social Media Manager.

To promote the event, the association invited Andrew Gustafson, the exhibition curator, to be a guest on its podcast, Kansas City RealTalk. On the episode, he described his research into the racist practices of influential local developer J.C. Nichols, which were copied by suburban developments around the country and eventually codified into federal policy before being outlawed by the 1968 Civil Rights Act. The exhibition also highlights the work of Richard Rothstein, whose book The Color of Law documents the widespread economic and social damage caused by segregation.

About 200 KCRAR members attended the open house-style event at the museum, where DEI Committee members acted as ambassadors and Gustafson was on hand in the galleries to answer questions. Refreshments were served in the reception area, and on the high-top tables, laminated cards asked open-ended questions to prompt discussions about the exhibit’s themes. The DEI Committee hoped that this event would open the eyes of local real estate professionals to the history their own industry played in the practice of redlining, ultimately inspiring them to continue that education.

“You don’t know what you don’t know, so we really hoped that this event could lead to an ‘aha’ moment for many of our members,” Vandegrift said, “because once you start to learn that the segregation we still see today is not an accident or a coincidence, but actually the result of a very calculated system of discrimination going back years and years — once you start to learn that, you want to keep learning, and that’s what we were hoping for our members.”

Dauer was encouraged to see many members buying the exhibition book as they left the event and heard several members say they’d be returning to the exhibit to spend more time before it left the museum in January of this year.

“Everyone was engaged, and many were shocked by what they were seeing,” Dauer said. “It was a real success, in that people left asking, ‘Ok, we know this now – but now what?’”

Although the museum exhibit is no longer on display, KCRAR is working to keep the education going, bringing Gustafson to its classroom to lead a ‘Latte & Learn’ educational session in April for Fair Housing Month. As an example of positive steps that REALTORS® are taking to combat the lingering impact of redlining, Dauer points to the KCRAR DEI Committee’s adoption of a new high school curriculum created by Missouri REALTORS® called ‘It’s Your Move.’ The committee hopes to bring this curriculum, designed to equip young people to become financially adept adults, to school districts in the Kansas City area that are underfunded as a lingering effect of the redlining practices decades prior.

To learn more about how the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS® and its DEI Committee is helping its members learn about housing discrimination and the toxic legacy of redlining, visit KCRAR.com/DEI.

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