Couple says they faced discrimination in home appraisal because of wife's race
This report is part of Turning Point, a groundbreaking ABC News series that examines the racial bill in the US and examines whether it can lead to lasting reconciliation.
Abena Horton and her husband Alex Horton recently did what many homeowners do every day: They asked for a valuation to refinance their Jacksonville, Florida home.
On the day of the appointment, Abena Horton was there to greet the appraiser, who would tour her family's four-bedroom, four-bathroom ranch-style home.
But when the Hortons got the rating back, they found the price shockingly low.
"It occurred to me almost immediately that I understand what this is about," said Abena Horton.
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Abena Horton, a lawyer, is black. Her husband, an artist, is white. Like most married couples, their home is filled with photos of them together, their 6-year-old son, and family members from both sides. Her bookshelves hold books by black authors and African American anthologies.
She said her initial reaction to the assessment was "a big eye roll".
"This person is so petty and hateful and he's wasting my time," she said. "Why did I let myself forget that I live in America as a black and that I have to take some extra steps to get a fair result."
“Why did I let myself be forgotten that I am black in America? And that I have to take some extra steps to get a fair result, ”said Abena Horton. (Abc news)
MORE: Real estate agents on camera who discriminate against minorities
Abena Horton decided to do her own experiment. She asked for a second assessment, but this time she let her husband greet the assessor alone while she and her young son were away. Before the appointment, she removed any photos and books that showed that he had a black family.
Doing so and hiding this part of her family was "overwhelming" on her mind, said Abena Horton. She was ashamed "that my son will see that I did this".
"I am ashamed to say that I really wanted to refinance and repay my house sooner and have full equity in my house, and so I was ready to take this outrage knowing it would be effective," She said, "So it was a combination of pragmatism and deep and deep sadness."
The second time only her white husband was home, the second rating came back showing that the value of her home had increased by more than $ 100,000.
Abena and Alex Horton said that they hope things will be different when their son comes of age to buy houses. (Abc news)
First, Abena Horton said she was relieved to have the new number for financial reasons. But then, "I think it was about 15 seconds later when the tears came," she said.
"Because we realize how much more removing these variables has increased the value of our home ... To know how much I personally devalued the house by just sitting in it. Just by living my life Just by paying my mortgage. Just by raising my son there. How much [the first reviewer] felt this was devaluing my home and the neighborhood, ”she added.
She shared her experience on Facebook and her post quickly went viral. Several people said they tried similar experiments with similar results.
MORE: The federal government accuses Facebook of housing discrimination because of targeted advertising
Homeownership and real estate aren't the only areas where this type of unconscious or conscious bias has harmed African Americans. Proof of this is buying a car, getting a loan, and applying for a job, to name a few.
Andre Perry, a Brookings Institution employee, studies Discrimination in Housing and is the author of the book Know Your Price.
"What we found after checking education, crime, accessibility, and all those fancy ... metrics, is that homes in black neighborhoods are depreciating by 23% ... totaling about $ 156 billion in equity lost "Perry said, adding that lost equity" would have funded more than four million small businesses. It would have paid for more than eight million college degrees. "
"This discrimination is widening the wealth gap," he said, "and it can be argued that we are in worse shape than we were 20, 30, 40 years ago."
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley published a study in 2018 that analyzed nearly seven million 30-year mortgages. It found that black and Latin American applicants were charged higher interest and refinancing fees compared to white applicants.
More recently, a July 2020 study by Suffolk University Law School of tenants in the greater Boston area found that black tenants were discriminated against 71% of the time.
ABC News' Diane Sawyer highlighted this issue in a 1991 Primetime Live hidden camera investigation. The report included two young professional apartment testers, John Kuhnen and Glenn Brewer, who conducted various experiments with hidden cameras.
Both men looked practically the same on paper. Both attended Big 10 schools, grew up in middle-class families, and played on the same softball team. But the big difference is that Kuhnen is white and Brewer is black.
John Kuhnen and Glenn Brewer spoke to ABC News' Diane Sawyer in 1991. (ABC News)
In our report, we found differences in the way Kuhnen and Brewer were treated.
For example, when Kuhnen entered a building to view an apartment, the facility manager gave him the building's master key and allowed him to view the apartment unattended. When Brewer toured the same apartment 10 minutes later, he was told that the apartment had been rented.
In another example, the two men went to a dealership separately to try to buy a car and Kuhnen was offered a cheaper price than Brewer for the same vehicle.
John Kuhnen and Glenn Brewer can be seen here in this 1991 ABC News report. (Abc news)
Now, 30 years later, both men are still friends. Both have families and have spent careers advocating equality in their communities. They said they also spoke to many people who saw the 91 report in classrooms and in diversity training courses.
Their experiences from participating in our research have remained with them.
"I remember the time after the report aired when some people spoke to me and said, 'Well, that got me out of the rejection phase," Kuhnen said. "And so there was the idea that they denied that there is even racism in this country. "
"I think what we were doing back then was important work," added Brewer. "It should have been better now."
Both have made efforts to educate others about unconscious and conscious prejudices about race and racism. They argue that different interactions, such as they have experienced, can have a lasting impact on a person's life.
"The things that remain very powerful for me are related to living," said Kuhnen. “Housing determines your health care, your education, your employment, where you can live, where you want to live. It is an extreme determinant for other parts of your life. "
John Kuhnen and Glenn Brewer seen here today. (John Kuhnen)
"I thought I was presenting myself as a pretty good person - a pretty decent guy," added Brewer. "That doesn't mean John isn't, but I just thought we'd get the same treatment if the conditions were equal, and we obviously didn't."
Brewer's eldest daughter, Elena Huddleston, is a sixth grade English teacher in St. Louis. She said she and her two sisters dedicated themselves to the lessons their father taught them such as "a sense of grace, a sense of compassion, and a sense of understanding of the connectedness we all have".
“He always taught us that this is the feeling of hope. You can't give up the fight, so I think I became an educator, "said Huddleston." I wanted to teach young African American children that no matter what anyone says, you can do whatever you want to do. Where there is a will, there's a way."
MORE: Trump is officially dismantling the Obama fair housing rule, which he never enforced
The Hortons said they were focused on their future after receiving a fair valuation on their home. They also filed a complaint with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
You control how to talk to your young son about what happened.
“My parents were very responsible because they never taught me that I was smaller than. But they taught me about the world I live in and that in America I may be perceived as less than, ”said Abena Horton. “I think I'll just tell [my son] my stories. I will be transparent to him and he must govern himself accordingly in the world in which he lives. "
"I don't know how to protect him from the clues of the world that are telling him all these things," she continued. “He's going to pick up some of it himself, and we'll have to navigate it as parents, because there is no way I would willingly crush his mind and make him feel that he is actually less than because he is not. He's awesome. "
PHOTO: Abena and Alex Horton requested an evaluation of their Jacksonville, Florida home. (Abc news)
When asked if they would talk to their son about buying a house, a car, or other life experiences, Alex Horton said, "I think we have to."
"I plan to give him as much knowledge and information as possible so that he can make an informed decision," he said. "And I think, as a parent, that's my responsibility, and if I do less than that, I've let him down."
The Hortons said they hope things will be different and easier for their son when he comes of age to buy a house or a car.
Meanwhile, in order to fight discrimination, Brewer said he always kept his phone close by and recorded videos of cases he thought were incorrect. Kuhnen said his strategy is to confront or question discrimination the way he sees it.
Given the recent racism calculation and protests against Black Lives Matter that continued this summer, both men said they will continue to be optimistic that change is coming.
"They have enough people who I think have good hearts and good spirits, and they also stand with African-Americans to say, 'Enough is enough," Brewer said. "We're better than that as a country. From the founding of this country on, we promised to get better and ... it has been a long time since we kept that promise. "
Couple says they faced discrimination in house valuation based on race of woman who originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
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