K. is proud to be a native New Yorker. She had always seen New York City as a welcoming place. But when she learned how pervasive housing discrimination was in this city, she jumped on the opportunity to do something about it.
K. became a tester in the Fair Housing Justice Center’s (FHJC) Acting for Justice program shortly after the FHJC opened its doors in 2005. She learned about the testing program through the Actors Fund and was initially drawn to it because it seemed like an opportunity that could fulfill two needs. “As an actor, you are always looking for jobs that allow you to act and to make a living at the same time,” K. explained. “And becoming a tester sounded like an interesting job in which I could use my skills as an actor.”
However, becoming a tester appealed to her more when she found out about the scale of the problems of housing discrimination and residential segregation in New York City. “I was quite naïve in terms of how much discrimination is still going on,” she said. She remembers learning that New York City is the third most segregated city for African Americans and second most segregated city for Latinos and Asian Americans in the United States. “That shocked and appalled me,” K. remembered.
It also surprised K. because, as someone from New York City, she always saw her hometown as a very diverse and vibrant place. “When you walk down the streets or ride in the subway, you see people from every possible corner of the world – all different races, religions, backgrounds and cultures,” she reflected. “When I became educated about these problems, I thought that it was important to do something to make this city as diverse as it appears to be.”
For the past eleven years, K. has been working to do just that. She reflected that being a tester is at times fascinating, rewarding, and upsetting, especially when she hears about how a test she was on uncovered discrimination. “As one of the white testers, I am rarely being discriminated against,” she explained. “But when I find out that my colleagues were treated differently than I was by the same housing provider I met with, it makes me quite angry and upset.” But despite the ups and downs, K. steadfastly continues to be a tester because she is committed to making this city a place where no one faces housing discrimination.
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.