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Ethnic names and housing discrimination: An unacceptable pairing

One of the most pervasive forms of discrimination that individuals with many different types of heritage may experience is finding themselves put on the bottom of a list of applicants simply because of the nature of their name. This might happen in job applications, and is prevalent in many rental property experiences.

This experience is far too common, and one that many individuals throughout America may never recognize until it happens to someone they know. National Public Radio (NPR) recently presented this frustrating experience in a piece on a couple living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who struggled to get rental properties to return calls after the husband left messages about seeking a rental, including his Hispanic name.

The NPR piece notes that roughly 31 percent of Latinos in America experience this sort of discrimination.

If you face this kind of discrimination, you do not have to simply put up with it. You may have grounds for legal action, and you certainly have an opportunity to stand up for your rights and for the rights of others who face similar poor treatment. Be sure to consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you of how to best protect your rights and identify any grounds for legal action your experience may present.

How do you fight rental discrimination?

Part of the difficulty with this type of street-level discrimination is that the person committing it may or may not even realize the source of one'd own prejudices. On the receiving end, this kind of behavior may seem mean-hearted and intentional, while on the other side it may not even seem like intentional action.

This, however, does not mean that it is acceptable behavior. In fact, it is far from it. When you choose to take this type of discrimination seriously, you advance the rights of yourself as well as countless others, and you send a strong message to rental managers and other public-facing individuals that such behavior is not only unacceptable, it may prove costly to the party who discriminates.

If you do experience such discrimination, you may need to get creative in order to document it. In the case of the couple mentioned in the NPR piece, the wife called many of the same rental companies using her "white-sounding" name and had no problem getting the information she needed. If you have a friend or member of your community who can aid you in this way, it may prove helpful. By documenting and comparing your experiences, you can demonstrate the disparity in reception.

However, you do not want to break the law or give a discriminating property management firm grounds to claim that your experiences are disingenuous. It is wise to consult with an experienced attorney who can direct your actions to build a strong case for justice.

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