A letter from Petra Fager
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”-Martin Luther King Jr.
As a member of the Enclave Team and a resident of South Minneapolis, I wanted to reflect on the events of the past two weeks. My husband and I live four short blocks from where George Floyd was killed. I don’t need to recount the events that you’ve likely seen on the news, or perhaps seen first hand if you’ve taken your own walk down Lake Street or to the memorial at 38th and Chicago. People have asked how I’m doing or what it’s been like. It’s a mix. First I was sad at yet another life lost, then angry at the injustice, then afraid of fires and unrest, followed by happiness at meeting neighbors for the first time, but right now I can’t put my finger on it… I’m still feeling elements of those other things, but I’m also feeling a bit overwhelmed, mixed with thoughtful, and a little bit numb. The traditional media and social media voices prescribe what to do or not do, say or not say. It’s deafening. Again you’ve heard the messages, I don’t need to repeat them. And what should we do? At times the messaging is conflicting, at some times in unison, at some times thoughtful, and at some times alarming.
I’ve been reflecting on the closest thing to all of these happenings that I’m aware of… the riots following the death of Dr. King in April of 1968. He was a man for reform through peace, but the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which passed only days after his death came after civil unrest and destruction of property, not just speeches. I’ll say it again, the legislation that provides our fair housing policies and was a much needed reform required more than talking, even from someone as eloquent and thoughtful as Dr. King. They came after unrest and destruction that he wouldn’t have condoned. I’ve been sitting with that these two weeks. But I’ve also been thinking that as needed as that reform was in policy, and as unwelcome as it was for some that wanted to behave badly, still – policy alone doesn’t solve problems. In this case, realtors have had and continue to have a part to play. 52 years later, will we follow the letter of the law but seek to circumvent it? Will we treat some clients differently than others based on the color of their skin, or the presence of an accent? Will we undermine the ability of certain groups to live in a certain place or to get services? Or, will we do the right thing even if it requires more effort, time or resources? Will we start with the assumption that each person has inherent worth and deserves to be able to pursue the housing of their choice? Will I decide that each of my clients deserves the same excellent customer service regardless of education, price point or housing type? It depends. Even if a realtor is abiding by the law, some do and some don’t abide by the spirit of fair housing. 52 years later and many would agree that there’s still plenty of unfair left in housing despite policies to the contrary.
When I chose real estate as a profession, I was coming from a nonprofit and education background, and I was afraid that being in a for profit environment would change me against my will, skew my values, and take my soul. What I’ve learned over 8 years is that there’s nothing magical about working in a for profit environment. I show up each day and I decide if I’m going to be ethical. I decide if I treat people the same or differently. I decide if I’ll go the extra mile to help someone historically disadvantaged or not. I don’t have a perfect record, but each time I’m faced with one of these choices, I try to do the right thing, I try to help not harm. And I would suspect that each one of you, whatever your profession or place in life has those choices too. You must decide how you’ll act in those situations, and your small choices are powerful to lift others up or to keep others down.
So that’s where I’d leave you. If you’re having basically all the feelings possible in succession or all at once, you’re not alone. If you can’t feel anymore, or don’t know what to feel, you’re not alone. If you want policy reform in whatever area, follow your conscience and pursue it and advocate for it. But even if you’re not sure about reform, or not sure it will ever happen: Do not underestimate the impact each one of us can have in our little corner of the world. We can choose to see people, choose to listen, choose to treat people equally, choose to lend a hand to bear one another up, instead of press one another down. Wherever you are on your journey, we are with you. Whatever your beautiful shade of skin, but especially if you’ve been pressed down, we are with you.
–Petra Fager, 6-9-20
“I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you.” – Martin Luther King Jr.