In many ways, B.L.’s experience as a tester is very common for those who join the Fair Housing Justice Center’s (FHJC) Acting for Justice testing program. An actor by trade, B.L. was looking for additional income between acting roles when, through The Actors Fund, he found out about the opportunity to become a tester. And once he learned more about what it meant to be a fair housing tester, this part-time job took on a whole new meaning.
“I think everyone may have had a similar moment as I did – once they realized what they were doing or what it meant, it became so much more important to do this work,” B.L. reflected.
The reason that B.L. finds this work important is because of his own ideals on what all human beings are entitled to. “There are these basic tenants that I think all humans deserve, such as a roof over their head, healthcare, an education, etc.” he described. “And the idea that I would be working for an organization that advocates for better and equal access to housing seemed like an amazing opportunity to me.”
Once he began participating in tests, the most interesting part of the experience became how he is consistently treated as a white man playing a potential home-seeker. “A lot of times I am almost eagerly welcomed,” he noted. “It hasn’t really mattered what community I walk into… It has been universally the same. Housing providers seem totally comfortable with me as a potential tenant – eager to welcome me and show me things they are renovating – while making a lot of assumptions about who I am. And it has been a little eye-opening to see the kind of pass I get as a white male.”
As this experience continues to repeat itself, B.L. is reminded of those same values that made this work so significant to him in the first place. “I think this work is important because we need to be advocates for each other,” B.L. reflected. “We need to work to help one another, to uplift each other, and to give each other a voice to push back against the racism and exclusion that treats people as less than.”
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.