America – and the banking and real estate industry – is waking up to just how deeply racism and white supremacy has been baked into our society. 

That can only be a good thing.  

As Diane McLaughlin and Bram Berkowitz detail elsewhere in this issue, lenders and real estate agents have historically been major culprits in the denial of wealth and opportunity to people of color, and particularly to Black Americans. 

From redlining to its softer versions that still continue today – witness the disturbing treatment of Black prospective renters uncovered by a Suffolk University Law School report earlier this month – discrimination has resulted in a Black homeownership rate that’s over 10 percentage points lower in Massachusetts than the national average, and just under 50 percentage points below that of white Bay Staters. 

Too often, members of the banking and real estate industries have functioned as henchmen of white supremacy while excusing their behavior as based on market-driven concerns. No one would want to live next to – or buy a home from – a Black family, lenders said to themselves in the segregation-minded 1930s as the Home Owners Loan Corporation drew literal red lines around minority neighborhoods. Black homebuyers won’t fit in if they buy in Dedham instead of Dorchester, some real estate agents have told themselves in more recent times.  

Decades of this racism has left the average Black Massachusetts household with much less wealth, particularly in the form of down payment help, or property to pass on to its children, while the average white family is not encumbered with the same burdens.  

The good news is many people and businesses in the real estate and banking industries say they want to right these wrongs.  

But given the deep history of discrimination in both sectors, leaders and average workers should first learn and listen before acting – something this newspaper hopes to aid by launching an occasional series exploring problems of and solutions to racism in real estate and banking 

In some cases, making positive change will require challenging deeply held notions and standard operating procedures that have historically resulted in discriminatory outcomes for people of color. And crafting solutions to these issues will require a true culture change.  

These efforts will be hard and will take time, but they will ultimately prove worth the effort. Not only will they help build a fairer world that lives up to America’s ideals, they will also better position lenders, companies and individual agents to compete in an increasingly diverse and aware state, whose consumers will remember who did and who didn’t take issues of white supremacy seriously. 

Letters to the editor of 300 words or less may be submitted via email at with the subject line “Letter to the Editor,” or mailed to the offices of The Warren Group. Submission is not a guarantee of publication.  

Industry Can’t Ignore Troubled History

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min