Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#SalonsatStowe Recap: Race and Housing Discrimination

On Wednesday August 12th, participants convened for a conversation on Race and Housing Discrimination as a part of the Stowe Salons at Lunch series. The conversation focused on housing discrimination in real estate, neighborhood segregation, and as related, school segregation. Susan Campbell's piece Discrimination Lives on In Real Estate provided context and background information for the conversation.  

To begin, the below cartoon was passed to participants. One participant commented that "All we are missing up North is a Confederate flag." Other participants responded by saying that the North, though people do not often think of it, is just as segregated and racist as the South. Participants

Matt Davies, Newsweek
What do you think of the cartoon? 

The opening conversation on the presence of segregation in Hartford and in Connecticut transitioned into a conversation on housing discrimination in real estate. One participant posed the question: "Does housing discrimination still happen? Are people of color directed towards certain neighborhoods?" Participants responded with their personal experiences.

One participant recalled her experience trying to purchase a home in the West End of Hartford: "I wanted to live on the north side of Farmington Avenue [predominately white area], but they [realtors] kept pushing me to the south side of the street. People still come up to me and and are surprised when they see that I, a black woman, owns a home."

Another participant shared a story of being the only black family on a small suburban street: "When we moved to the street in the 1970s, some of our neighbors put their houses up for sale. There was an economic fear that people's houses would become devalued if the neighborhood diversified."

María Cristina Cuerda, Fair Housing Specialist with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, who was in attendance, provided additional context. As a Fair Housing Specialist, María works directly with clients who believe they have been victim to unfair or discriminatory housing practices. María noted that housing discrimination based on race still exists and that the Connecticut Fair Housing Center is working to create a required class that all potential real estate agents must take on discrimination. 

In response to María's point, one participant questioned if a mandated class would make any difference. As a former real estate agent, this participant noted that she witnessed discrimination occur even after agents had been trained or given classes on bias. "What will it take to get real estate agents to stop acting in this way? Do we need stricter punishments?"   

The conversation then turned to education as participants repeatedly posed the notion that if we live in segregated communities then our children will go to segregated schools. One participant shared that her and her husband are grappling with where to raise their kids. She expressed, "As someone who grew up in a time where the rhetoric was very much, everyone is equal, don't pay attention to race, be color blind etc. it is good that we are now beginning to actual reckon with the problems and racism that has always existed. My husband and I are talking about housing and education now. Where do we want to raise our kids so that they grow up in a diverse environment?"

To end the conversation, participants brainstormed several actions steps that can be taken following the discussion. Participants noted that we all have the capacity to stand up and speak out when we witness any type of discrimination as well as the capacity to continually learn about others and about housing and school policy.

Were you at the Stowe Salon at Lunch? Anything you would like to share? How can we desegregate our communities? How can we end discrimination in real estate? Let us know below! 

Come to the next Stowe Salon at Lunch! We'll be discussing the "Mutual Interest in Ending Racism." Read The Cost of Racism to White People by Paul Kivel to get started! Wednesday, August 19th at 12:00 pm. 

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