Acting for Justice: J.R.’s Story

We all have a responsibility to ensure that housing is open and equally accessible to all. We are called as citizens to make sure that all people are afforded their rights under the law. That is why J.R. works as a tester for the Fair Housing Justice Center’s (FHJC) Acting for Justice program.

J.R. first heard about the opportunity to become a tester through the Actors Fund. But it was not the job description or the opportunity to have a steady income when he was between acting gigs that intrigued J.R. Rather, it was the process of becoming a tester that made J.R. excited about this work.

“There was a questionnaire that you had to fill out with ten thought-provoking questions. I remember filling out that questionnaire and reflecting on different things in my life and times when I may or may not have been discriminated against,” J.R. described. “It was a moment to think about what was important to me as a person and as a citizen. And in having the opportunity to do that kind of reflective work, I became even more excited about working with the FHJC to do something about housing discrimination.”

J.R. finds the experience of testing an odd mix of exhilaration, excitement, and nervousness. But J.R. cares more about the impact his work as a tester will have. “I am able to use who I am and what people perceive me to be to make people’s lives better,” J.R. explained, referring in part to the fact that he is African American and on tests puts himself in the position to potentially be discriminated against. “It is an honor to perform what I see as a civic duty to bring everyone the rights they are and should be afforded.”

J.R. believes that testing is particularly important because of the nature of the problem of housing discrimination. “Discrimination is such a pervasive part of society and the most insidious part is that you often don’t know that you are being discriminated against while it is happening,” J.R. stated. “People can be so nice and friendly to your face, but at the same time have a profound effect on what your life could be like by denying you opportunities based on some judgement about ‘people like you.’”

“I think it is incredibly important to do this work,” J.R. concluded, “because it is the only way that we can tangibly make a difference on this issue.”

 

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. Testing is one of the most effective tools in our arsenal to eliminate systemic housing discrimination. 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.