Woman Recounts Housing Discrimination After Seller Attempts To Back Out Upon Learning She Is Black

by Gee NY
Dr. Raven Baxter in Alexandria, Va., on May 22, 2024. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

In an appalling display of discrimination, Dr. Raven Baxter, a Black woman, faced an abrupt withdrawal of a property sale when the seller learned of her race.

The incident has sparked widespread outrage and highlights ongoing biases in the housing market.

Dr. Raven Baxter, a molecular biologist and science communicator known as “Dr. Raven the Science Maven,” found her ideal condo in Virginia Beach.

The property, priced at $749,000, featured three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a marble fireplace, a private foyer, and exquisite detailing like crown molding and wainscoting.

Excited by the prospect, Baxter offered the asking price, which the seller initially accepted.

She proceeded with the down payment and entered escrow.

The situation took a disturbing turn on the night of May 17, when Baxter’s broker, Bill Loftis, delivered shocking news: the seller, Jane Walker, 84, wanted to retract her acceptance of Baxter’s offer solely because Baxter is Black!

Loftis, clearly distressed, relayed the seller’s discriminatory stance to Baxter.

In response to this blatant act of racism, Baxter took to the social platform X, where she has 163,000 followers.

Her post quickly went viral, drawing attention to the persistent racial biases in the housing market. Baxter’s story resonated with many, shedding light on the discrimination that still exists despite federal laws prohibiting such actions.

Baxter filed a claim of discrimination with the Virginia Fair Housing Office and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

She also sought advice from a civil rights attorney.

Housing advocates supported her actions, noting that both the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 make it illegal for home sellers and real estate agents to discriminate based on race.

The brokers and agents involved expressed shock and sympathy for Baxter but were criticized for not immediately offering legal guidance.

Emails and calls reviewed by The New York Times showed that while they assured Baxter the sale would proceed, they failed to provide adequate support or immediately direct her to file a discrimination complaint.

Berkshire Hathaway RW Towne Realty, the company representing Walker, condemned the discriminatory behavior. Jay Mitchell, a supervising broker, stated that their agents are trained to be aware of discrimination in all its forms.

Despite these assurances, the company faced scrutiny over their handling of the situation.

Although the sale is set to close later this summer, the discrimination Baxter faced remains a significant concern.

Brenda Castañeda, deputy director of advocacy for HOME of VA, said Baxter’s rights under the Fair Housing Act have been potentially violated, regardless of the transaction’s outcome.

Real estate agents are legally obliged to avoid discrimination, and the actions taken in this case may have breached those obligations.

Dr. Raven Baxter’s ordeal is just one example of the persistent issue of racial discrimination in the housing market, because despite federal protections, discriminatory practices continue to affect Black homebuyers.

This incident serves as a wake-up call for stronger enforcement of fair housing laws and greater accountability within the real estate industry.

Story culled from an article by The New York Times.

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