A Blurry Case of Racism

Some many years ago, I got to know this French girl, M. And by now, I think we have established that the most common name probably begins with the letter M since I noticed that many of the people I mention in this blog are M. After all, the most common given name in the world is Muhammad and its variations.

Anyhow, when M first decided to move out of her first apartment and went in search of a nice new place at a property agent, she set her sights on one that drew her attention. However, she was later told that she couldn’t rent the place because the owner didn’t want to rent to French people. She was taken aback and decided to submit a formal complaint as that would be considered an act of racism in France and many parts of Europe.

When she told that to me, I could see why she thought of it that way. After all, declining service to someone by virtue of their race or nationality is a form of discrimination. And it isn’t that I haven’t ran into that myself. Being at my 8th apartment in my less than 8 years here, I’ve had my share of experience hunting for new places to stay. A couple of times, after submitting an application online for viewing, I was told that the apartments I chose could not be rented because the owners do not want to rent them to foreigners. I was flabbergasted but at the same time, had no choice but to accept it.

I told one of the agents, “If that’s the case, why don’t you just provide the filter on the site so I don’t have to waste time looking at those that I couldn’t rent.” And he very honestly told me that they know it is not politically correct to do that, so that filter is only available to staff at the agency.

Very well done.

I was more disturbed by the fact that I would be wasting time looking at apartments I’m not allowed to rent if I searched online myself than by the discrimination. But if you look at it another way, maybe this seems plausible. Apartments are owned by individuals. They are unlike public services like transport where cab drivers will get into trouble for refusing service to anyone. If I have a pen, I should have the right to refuse to lend it to people whom I think might damage it. So, why not housing? If I had once rented it to a certain group of people i.e. foreigners, and they’ve made a mess of my house when they left, then I have the onus to protect my property by not renting to them again. This then raises the issue on stereotype, which can be an entire entry in itself, so I shall not bring that in here.

What are your thoughts on that?


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