Real Estate Racism: A Social Experiment

You hear a seller making racist remarks to potential buyers: do you intervene?

ByABC News
February 6, 2009, 6:36 PM

Feb. 9, 2009— -- What would you do if, while touring a $1.4 million home for sale, you overheard a steady stream of blatant racism directed toward an African-American couple?

ABC News decided to find out by rigging a home for sale with hidden cameras and staging an "open house." We then hired a white actress named Margot to play the role of a racist home-seller who doesn't want to sell to African-Americans. Black actors Cezar and Vanessa were the targets of her discriminatory remarks.

When both actors told us they had personally experienced this type of bigotry when house-hunting themselves, we weaved some of their real-life stories into Margot's dialogue.

"Perhaps you're looking for something more urban than suburban," Margot said to the couple while touring the home. "This is a quiet community -- we don't need altercations here. You know, there aren't a lot of your types in this area."

Will other visitors to the open house say anything when they overhear these racist comments, or walk away?

The first visitors to walk in the door were mother and daughter, Dee and Jessica Dolese, who live nearby. As they toured the home and heard Margot's offensive remarks, they at first seemed confused and tried to avoid the scene, moving quickly from room to room.

We cued Margot to say her most astonishing line yet: "We don't have a lot of colored people in this neighborhood." Dee Dolese, who is white, finally reached her limit and gave our racist seller an earful.

"I'm appalled. You obviously don't live in this town because we do and everybody is welcome here. I don't know where you come from but I've got to go now. I'm throwing up," she said.

The next visitor, local realtor George Walsh, also white, wasn't nearly as vocal.

"We have a very nice calm neighborhood, you know," Margot told the couple. "We don't have a lot of altercations and things like that. We don't have people, you know…"