The Jim Crow South? No, Long Island Today

White Americans have long found comfort believing that racial discrimination is a thing of the past.

Black Americans feel they know better, and a three-year investigation of Long Island real estate agents by the local newspaper Newsday provides the latest depressing evidence that they are right.

More than half a century after the great civil rights battles to end discrimination, the newspaper found that black home buyers are being steered to black neighborhoods and more closely scrutinized by brokers.

Newsday sent white investigators posing as buyers to meet with 93 real estate agents about 5,763 listings across Long Island. Then, they sent a second buyer — either black, Hispanic or Asian — to meet with the same agents. The practice is a gold-standard methodology known as “paired testing,” in which real estate agents are contacted by pairs of prospective clients with similar financial profiles.

Black testers were treated differently than white ones 49 percent of the time. Hispanic buyers encountered unequal treatment 39 percent of the time and Asian buyers 19 percent of the time.

Along with steering minority testers to majority-minority areas, and white testers to mostly white areas, some agents required black buyers to meet additional financial conditions that they didn’t demand of white buyers with the same profile.

Sometimes, in exchanges recorded by undercover cameras, agents would deter white buyers from house hunting in minority areas.

“Follow the school bus, see the moms that are hanging out on the corners,” Rosemarie Marando, a Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage agent, told one buyer.


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In another case, Le-Ann Vicquery, then a Keller Williams Realty agent, extolled the virtues of the Long Island hamlet of Brentwood to a black buyer. But to a white buyer interested in Brentwood, Ms. Vicquery sent this text message: “You may want to look into recent gang killings in the Brentwood area online.”

The agents gave white buyers an average of 50 percent more listings than black buyers. Some declined to do business in areas with large minority populations.