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This might be my most provocative blog in a while. Let me first state that I am happily married to a beautiful gringa. My kids are half- White and some of my best friends throughout my life have been White, so don’t let the title of this blog throw you. This is an important but rarely discussed issue. The theory of White Validation has been around since the sixties. Essentially, it is the belief that for some people of color it doesn’t matter how good we are, success is not real until it is acknowledged by the White community. Latinos as a rule, don’t like to talk about racial discrimination, and for the most part, I subscribe to that mindset. It’s a healthier way to live. However, White Validation Syndrome is not about discrimination because it is not about the way people perceive us, it’s about the way we perceive ourselves, and the effect it has on our advancement as a community. That is not to say racism does not exist. We know it does, especially in more implicit forms.
At NAHREP we address the homeownership gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanics. Hispanics have a 48% homeownership rate in America which trails the overall population by almost 20 percentage points. Some of that gap can be attributed to the fact Hispanics are much younger than the overall population and people don’t tend to purchase homes until they are older and more stable financially. Makes sense, but age doesn’t account for the entire gap, and part of NAHREP’s role in the marketplace is to try and identify and solve the systemic barriers that have historically prevented Hispanics from being homeowners. Before NAHREP, if I was someone who cared about this issue, I could have worked inside the existing housing establishment and tried to bring awareness to the problem. Some people did, and you can probably guess how that worked out…The opportunities and barriers for Hispanic homeownership, and why they are important to the well-being of the entire housing economy are widely understood in the industry for one reason, NAHREP. Platforms are important.
Let me take it a bit further, NAHREP not only disseminates data and information to the industry, it provides a robust leadership platform for the development of Latinos in the real estate industry. When the foreclosure crisis occurred in 2008 and millions of people were losing homes, NAHREP marched on Capitol Hill and demanded stronger homeowner protections and that Fannie, Freddie, HUD, and all of the major servicers employ a much higher percentage of Hispanic brokers to sell their REO assets. Make no mistake, NAHREP’s efforts saved hundreds of Latino brokers from going under and prevented Hispanic homeownership rates from falling off a cliff. Over the years, NAHREP has consistently advocated for Hispanics in the mortgage banking industry and for loan products that are relevant to Hispanic homebuyers. Most importantly, NAHREP has created a marketplace where real estate professionals congregate, collaborate, and share best practices. In fact, it’s the size and scale of the network itself that gives the organization its power. Few can argue that the primary beneficiaries of NAHREP’s presence in the market besides Hispanic homebuyers have been Hispanics in the real estate industry …even those who don’t participate in NAHREP. Perhaps you see where I am going with this.
When we started NAHREP 22 years ago, I said that the only way this would work is if we don’t ask Hispanics in the real estate industry to sacrifice quality for the sake of being part of a Hispanic real estate organization. We had to provide all the quality that they could get from the best real estate organizations in America with the added benefit of having content and a network that is most applicable to their businesses. I believe we’ve accomplished that and have doubled down on that vision with L’ATTITUDE. I would challenge anyone to find me a business conference anywhere in the United States with a stronger lineup of speakers, entertainers, and participants than NAHREP at L’ATTITUDE. While NAHREP is big, if it’s as good as I think it is, why isn’t it even bigger? Specifically, why don’t even more Latinos participate? I’m sure there are a variety of factors. Not everyone in the industry participates in organized real estate in any capacity, and some of it is due to awareness. NAHREP still isn’t present in every market. But I know of plenty of Latino real estate professionals who go to conferences and are active in organized real estate and still choose not to participate in NAHREP. Why? While it’s always dangerous to generalize, I’m going to do it anyway. Some of it is due to the harsh reality of White Validator Syndrome. To them, attending an event or being part of an organization that is all about Latinos feels limiting. It may have some good things, but it’s derivative, and it isn’t part of the REAL industry. You might argue with that, but I know people who were invited to speak on the main stage at NAHREP at L’ATTITUDE, with thousands in the audience and the national media in the room, who turned it down to speak on a breakout session at another event. Trust me, I can give you hundreds of other examples of this.
So why is this important? When I was on stage with President Barack Obama, the one time he pushed back against me was when he said, Latinos need to get on the same page if they expect to have their issues prioritized. While he was speaking about legislation at the time, his point goes beyond immigration policy. Latinos will never agree on everything politically, but there are a few things we all strive for; specifically, prosperity and economic mobility. Just as I am sure the Latino real estate market would be much different without NAHREP, our presence in the industry would be even stronger if more of us participated in NAHREP. There is no doubt about it. Of course, this has applications beyond the real estate industry. Our presence in media, tech, and finance could take a quantum leap forward if we were in better alignment as a community. So, what’s the cure for White Validator Syndrome? I think there are some people who are dealing with real self-esteem issues, but we also need to get better at validating each other. Several weeks ago, I wrote about “crabs in the bucket”. The haters we have in our midst. Unfortunately, one of the reasons Latinos seek validation outside of our community is that they rarely get it from within. This week, I call on all of us to uplift someone from our own community. Ideally, someone who rarely gets acknowledged for what they do, but who you know deserves it. I promise I’m going to think about how we do more of this at NAHREP, and personally reach out to more people who should be a part of our organization. We have to do better.