Much-needed new law removes racist language from real estate deeds


A house for sale on Magnolia Drive at Clark Street. Photo by Dynasty Williams

A new law in Florida has finally been enacted to help target racially offensive covenants found in real estate documents. The Tallahassee-based initiative that started more than a year ago was officially made into a law when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation on Sept. 4.

The criminal defense attorney, Anabelle Dias, who uncovered the offensive language while planning to purchase a home in the Betton Hills neighborhood, started the initiative after reading her proposed seven-page covenant, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Although the unenforceable, racist language stemmed from a federal loan program in 1939, nearly 80 years ago, it is important to target systemic racism currently located in legal and official documentation today.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, “It said, ‘No person of other than the Caucasian race shall own, use or occupy any property in said subdivision except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race or nationality employed by an owner or tenant.’”

For Betton Hills, a majority caucasian neighborhood, it was an insulting and embarrassing “faux pas” for Realtors to have such language still located in their covenants in the year 2020.

During today’s push for social justice, equal rights, the BLM movement and others, it is important to take steps to fix these issues. At the very least, if not only targeting systemic racist language, it’s also preventing uncomfortable situations from becoming even more uncomfortable.

Combating racism and derogatory language when we come across it, may help to undo learned behavior and language.

“While in Chicago. and on my break as an Amazon Prime shopper in Whole Foods, I and a few of my African American colleagues were seated when we overheard a Caucasian woman tell her friend, ‘Who do those people think they are?’ Referring to us, due to the fact they weren’t able to find seating,” said 22-year old, Taylor Davis, a  Florida A&M student, when asked about her recent interactions that involved racist language in a professional setting.

Interactions like that, and similar to one like language in the covenant, are why it’s important to be able to legally target racist language.

Attorney Jami Coleman told the Tallahassee Democrat, “Our goal was always to stop re-offending people over and over again.” Continuing, she said, “I think all change starts little by little. It doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly wasn’t created overnight.”