Matt Difanis, the chair of the professional standards committee for the National Association of Realtors, created a YouTube video “Is the Status Quo Really a Problem?” In the video, beginning at 5:45, he said the following abhorrent racial slurs: “ni#ga”, “n#gger” “s#nd n#gger” “Ch#nk” “[email protected]” “h#nky” “C#acker” and ‘b#aner.” I put the # symbol in the words to avoid using them because they’re appalling words no one should utter. He didn’t censor them at all.
The hateful racial slurs flew out of his mouth, one after the other, a jarring display sure to cause some people emotional harm. Did he stop to consider how hearing those words could make people feel? Here’s the video. It’s on the National Association of Realtors‘ website. Be forewarned that the language in it is graphic and disturbing. We’re running it here only to show you the full context of his comments out of fairness. The Orange County Register used this video in its publication for a story dated Nov. 14, 2020.
In case the video is removed from YouTube, it can be seen here:
Will the National Association of Realtors do anything about it? Or will they give Matt Difanis special treatment? Difanis is Chair of the National Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee, and NAR’s Board of Directors.
After all, NAR has a new extremely broad and vague speech-police code that mandates punishment – specifically, I’m referring to its new Code of Ethics, Standard of Practice 10-5, which introduced a sweeping new speech code policing what realtors all over the nation say, including in their private lives.
Ironically, Difanis helped write the exceptionally broad and faulty code, and his video was designed to explain it to the realtors who will now have to watch everything they say because the NAR speech police might come for them. As written, the new code would police the nation’s realtors’ speech, even in their private lives and on their private social media accounts. If you say something a committee deems “hate speech” or “harassment” despite the context – however that’s defined – off with your head.
To be clear, I think that using racial slurs is wrong and harmful. Housing discrimination of any sort, including that based on race, is abhorrent. There are cases around the country where realtors have used appalling racial slurs with malicious and hateful intent and that is wrong and should be punished. I would never use such a slur even with the intent in which Difanis did. I presume Difanis himself will explain that context SHOULD matter – that he was using the slurs to explain which slurs the code prevents. But the code he helped author doesn’t allow for context exemptions.
It’s extremely subjective and broad.
If NAR is following its own new policy that polices the speech of realtors around the country, including in their non-realtor private lives, it will have to find Difanis in violation. Here’s why the NAR code is so incredibly coercive. To get on MLS in almost all states – the service that’s absolutely essential to working as a realtor – a realtor has to belong to the National Association of Realtors.
The group should take it upon itself to uphold the policy – or better yet, change it, so that it’s not so broad. Doing any less would be showing great special treatment and would make it impossible for NAR to discipline an average realtor when it looked the other way on its own leader.
Code of Ethics Standard of Practice 10-5 states,
“REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
Under Statement of Professional Standards Policy #29, REALTORS® are subject to the Code of Ethics’ standards in all of their activities. Thus, a violation of Article 10, as supported by Standard of Practice 10-5, can occur when a REALTOR® uses harassing speech, hate speech, epithets and slurs based on the protected classes in any media or context, regardless of whether related to their activities in the real estate business or their identification as a REALTOR®.
I guess Matt Difanis was just hoisted on his own petard.
That’s the problem for Matt Difanis. IN ANY MEDIA OR CONTEXT. You could drive a mack truck through that policy – and I just did.
Or will NAR admit that its new speech-monitoring code was flawed from the get-go, devoid of exemptions for intent or context?
The new code is so sweeping it begs the question of which comments will subjectively fall under it. What if a realtor flies a thin blue line flag? Or voices support for Donald Trump? Or opposes the Black Lives Matter organization’s Marxist theory? Will some woke committee deem those things hate speech under the too-broad code? Again, I oppose actual hate speech, but the concern here is the slippery slope. And, frankly, such too-broad policies risk minimizing actual incidents of hate speech, which, of course, should be punished severely.
There’s another big problem for the nation’s main realtors trade group, though: NAR posted the racial slur-laden video on its own website, where it remains to this day.
Will NAR discipline itself?
This seems to be the new standard in American society: a person’s career can be completely destroyed – even a 45-year esteemed career – if they utter speech deemed offensive regardless of intent or context.
Just this week, a journalist of 45 years with the New York Times was fired for using a slur while asking someone a question if the actual word was used, two years ago.
One-hundred and fifty New York Times staffers urged management to do something about Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist Don McNeil for using the N word in the context of answering a student’s question. His bosses agreed there was no malicious intent; no matter. The staffers and bosses made it clear; intent literally didn’t matter. He resigned, a career in shambles. Another case in point, New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones has been critical of McNeil, but she used a racial slur on Twitter and the Times has done nothing about that.
Unfortunately for Matt Difanis and NAR, the speech police code was written so broadly that, unless NAR rewrites the code, if the group lets Difanis off the hook, then it’s essentially admitting its code is flawed and showing a gross double standard for its own leadership besides. The group must be consistent, leaving it with two choices: 1) Discipline Difanis and itself or 2) get rid of or rewrite the flawed code.
Will the New York Times write about this appalling use of pretty much every racial slur in the book?
I’d vote for starting over.
You’re going to have to be consistent NAR. Or are you going to give your board of directors’ chair special treatment? Time will tell.