Lisa Wise and Grace Langham
Our business isn’t new; it began 12 years ago when Lisa grew her side hustle as a landlady into Flock DC, a family of real estate management companies in the District proper. Today, we tend to thousands of homes and 52 co-workers. Although this enterprise has been around for a while, we recognize that now, today, is a critical time to start over. To rehatch, if you will: at Flock, we love a good bird metaphor.
Now is the moment (but wait, no, the moment was long, long ago) for business to quit thinking that their “diversity” and “inclusivity” efforts are enough to address racism in our society. Let’s face it, such efforts put whiteness at the center of the conversation. It’s time that businesses become actively, unabashedly, anti-racist. As of this moment in history, it is no longer possible in the United States to plan for a thoughtful, purposeful or successful business future without taking a path that is deliberate, intentionally anti-racist, and progressive.
As a business transforming our Flock into an anti-racist organization, here’s our pledge:
-Our company will cultivate and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist workforce.
-We will no longer make excuses or exceptions for clients or residents who are racist toward our team.
-We will no longer look the other way when industry peers openly strategize workarounds for fair housing, vouchers, management in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods, and inclusive hiring.
-We will continually seek diversity in senior management positions.
-We will continue creating good jobs, and will advocate for programs that build bridges to better employment. We will begin to insist on better jobs programs.
We will intensify our challenges to our industry and to its racist past. We will work toward rewriting a future that untangles toxic and predatory policies that have only served to benefit white property owners. We will begin more formal efforts to challenge housing law and policy that is rooted in discrimination and inequity. We have been too quiet. We will not continue to lead quietly. We will and we must leverage our large and growing community to act against racism. And we must.
Our purpose-driven business has long focused on “diversity” and “inclusion.” Our company culture looks for symptoms of institutionalized discrimination. We foreground philanthropy and we share our resources: recently we converted our corporate spaces to a rest station for the public during the Black Lives Matter protests. Most importantly we’re committed to equity as we apply our company values toward helping everyone on our team achieve financial security, and have a path to home ownership. But we have a tremendous amount of work ahead to balance the scales. To be the change we want to see.
Even a company with the best of intentions is still building wealth and success in a system that supports white business owners, disenfranchises would-be Black business owners, justifies and benefits from systemic racism, and enjoys the benefits of whiteness as if it’s a skill set rather than just a question of the birds and the bees. Some company owners argue, simply, that none of us were in business when explicitly racist plans were laid to exclude Black and brown Americans. Of course we weren’t, but this doesn’t mean we don’t benefit today from the racist history of yesterday. We do. Now is the time to ditch those old plans and hatch some new ones.