Acting for Justice: B.T.B.’s Story
B.T.B. is passionate about addressing the issue of discrimination in all its forms. However, she knows that it is one thing to care about a problem as pervasive as discrimination and another to do something about it. “I became a tester for the Fair Housing Justice Center because I really believed in the work the organization was doing,” B.T.B. explained. “I felt that I could be part of a solution, rather than reading about or just feeling bad about discrimination.”
In the more than six years since B.T.B. joined the Fair Housing Justice Center’s (FHJC) Acting for Justice program as a white tester, she has participated in several testing investigations. There were some tests where B.T.B was crossing her fingers, hoping that the housing provider she was speaking with was not discriminating. There were other times when B.T.B. fought to keep her jaw from dropping in reaction to what she was seeing or hearing during a test. “In those times when my jaw drops, I feel like I am the tip of the spear for people who experience this discriminatory behavior in real life,” she described. “As a tester I have a chance to make that better, a chance to help stop this person who is discriminating.”
B.T.B. knows that testing alone will not end housing discrimination, rather that it is just one part of a larger response. “Sometimes with work like this you feel like a band aid on open heart surgery, because there is so much discrimination going on and so much of it you don’t know about,” B.T.B. reflected. But the enormity of the problem doesn’t stop her from doing the work. “You just have to keep at it,” she said. “You have to say that, ‘I will at least make somebody’s day better. I may not be able to make everybody’s day better, but somebody is going to be helped by this, whether it is the person who is going to get a fair mortgage rate, or the person who is going to get the apartment they want and can afford, or the person living in an inclusive and accessible nursing home.”
B.T.B continues to work as a tester because she knows the impact the FHJC’s testing investigations have in the New York City region. “We have this unique opportunity to turn on the lights and pull the covers back and say this is the truth about what is going on,” she declared. “This work is important because it is making the world a better place.”
This story is part of a series called Acting for Justice Stories, which highlights the experiences of the testers who make up the FHJC’s Acting for Justice testing program. Testers pose as ordinary home seekers in order to determine if housing providers and others are complying with fair housing laws. If you are interested in supporting the Acting for Justice program, consider donating to the FHJC at www.fairhousingjustice.org/give.