There was a sickening inevitability to it – so much so that I switched my phone and the TV off as soon as the game ended and I realised what was coming – but I did not think for a second that one of the idiots taking to social media to spout vile racist abuse against the three black players who missed their penalties would hail from the property industry.
Poison of the sort dripped into people’s ears by Tory MP for Dover and Deal Natalie Elphicke is one thing (yes, it was deeply “ungenerous”, Natalie, to snidely suggest in your private message to colleagues that “Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics” – maybe if you and your fellow MPs did your jobs, he wouldn’t have had to “play politics”). But use of the ‘n’ word? That is another matter altogether, and for the shocking tweet to have been seemingly posted by a Manchester-based commercial building manager (who claimed his account was “taken over by a third party”)? It is not a good look, not a good look at all.
Regardless of whether he was responsible or not (as Property Week went to press, he had reportedly handed himself in to the police and been arrested), the reputational damage has been done, not just to the firm in question but the whole industry. It is such a shame because we all know progress is being made, but sadly tweets picturing the firm’s all-white management team do nothing to challenge the prevailing negative narrative.
The industry needs to do better. If there were a few more black and brown faces on executive boards (non-execs don’t count), that would help. Then, when you talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, it will be clear that you mean it – and that for your business it is not just about adding a few white women to the mix.
It is also time to call out abuse. We have all done it; bitten our lips when someone has said something inappropriate or behaved inappropriately. In turning a blind eye to such behaviour, we are enabling it, even endorsing it. Let’s stop ignoring appalling comments and behaviour, let’s challenge people (safely, not in a rowdy pub after a football game) and let’s kick racism out of property.
Let’s also celebrate the black real estate professionals who are already transforming the industry. With that in mind, I am delighted to announce that Property Week is partnering with Real Estate Balance to launch a new campaign to coincide with Black History Month this October. If you are a black real estate professional, please tell us your story so we can share it with readers and help inspire others to follow your lead.
If you are not and fear the future, don’t. Look forward in hope, not back in anger. Embracing diversity is a no-brainer. You only need to look at the glorious England football team to see that. Alongside youth, it was the team’s greatest strength during the tournament and what got us to our first major football final in 55 years.
For the first time in a very long time, we have a football team we can be proud of, especially Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho who, knowing what the consequences might be if they missed, took those penalties for their country anyway.
Let’s make the property industry something to be equally proud of, rather than something to be embarrassed about – or, worse, ashamed of.