August 11, 2005

Racism, right here in River City

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) charged an East Moline landlord Tuesday with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly discriminating against an East Moline family.

Doris Rofrano, 1855 41st St., Moline, advertised a townhouse for rent at 3615 Kennedy Drive, East Moline, during the week of Aug. 20-26, 2004 in The Argus and The Dispatch, according to a HUD news release.

Carol Collins, who is black, told her son, Troy, who was moving from Wisconsin, called about the ad. He called Ms. Rofrano, who is disabled, to see if he could view the unit, but she told him she had no one else to show him the property.

Mrs. Collins then called Ms. Rofrano and explained her son would only be in town for a few days. Ms. Rofrano agreed to give her the keys so they could view it on their own, according to the complaint.

On Aug. 25, Mrs. Collins, Mr. Collins and her daughter, Nicole, drove to Ms. Rofrano's home in Moline to pick up the key. But when Mrs. Collins went to ask for the key, and Ms. Rofrano discovered she was black, Ms. Rofrano allegedly told her, "I do not rent to colored people."

Desperate to see the unit, Ms. Collins lied to Ms. Rofrano and said her husband was white. By lying to Ms. Rofrano, they could view the townhouse, the complaint said.

After viewing the unit, Mr. Collins wanted to rent the townhouse, but Ms. Rofrano told Mrs. Collins it could only be rented by her and her "husband." Mrs. Collins requested to sign a lease, pay the deposit and first month's rent, but Ms. Rofrano said she would have no blank leases until her personal assistant came in the next day, the release said.

She let Mrs. Collins keep the key so she could show the unit to her "husband," an HUD report said.

On Aug. 27, Mr. Collins returned to the unit to show his girlfriend, but he noticed the locks were changed. He called Ms. Rofrano, who told him the unit was no longer available, the complaint said.

Mr. Collins called his mother, who then called Ms. Rofrano. She told the Collins family the property was being removed from the market due to repairs and to leave the keys in the mailbox, the complaint said.

After being taken off the market, the unit was rented to someone who was not black.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, family status and disability. Penalties for housing discrimination includes a civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense.

Ms. Rofrano also owns a complex of stores and offices at 367 Avenue of the Cities, and at 4113 4th St., both of East Moline, a HUD report stated. She declined to comment on Tuesday.

A hearing for Ms. Rofrano is scheduled for Oct. 25 in Chicago.
Think about this story the next time you hear some right-wing ideologue trying to say that there's no need for civil rights laws or affirmative action because blacks no longer face discrimination.

And why wasn't this front page news instead of being buried on page C-1 of the Dispatch/Argus??


At 8/11/2005 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a racist myself. But does an owner have any rights when it comes to who they want to rent out their own property to?
I'm curios as to what you are up against as a landlord if you did not want to rent to another person whether it be for skin color, religious affil, criminal background etc.

At 8/11/2005 1:31 PM, Blogger diehard said...

Dope I cant beleive your getting spamed on the blog!
Is there nothing sacred?!

At 8/11/2005 6:08 PM, Blogger Dave Barrett said...

Inside Dope, you are doing a great job with this blog. If this spam in the comments continues you may have to go back to not accepting anonymous comments.
You are absolutely correct that Conservatives seem to incorrectly believe that racism is a thing of the past. The fight against ignorance and prejudice is very much an on-going battle.

At 8/11/2005 7:08 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Hey Dope, the blatent racial tone of the verbal dealings this lady used is in this day and age unacceptable!

If this is in fact how she acted, then I hope she pays a big fine. Sounds like she can well afford to pay fines being a businesswoman and wealthy property owner. She also should be well aware of the laws on discrimination considering the fact that she is disabled in a wheelchair.

It's so ironic that this lady could have acted like this. The comments she made are no different than if someone had told her, "We don't rent to disabled people."

Perhaps a big fine or some personal experience of her being discriminated against is what it will take to change her behaviour to what the law upholds.

Thanks for reporting this important story. I did see the QC Times featured it today in a more prominent location. I hope that Congressman Lane Evans' office is keeping an eye on the situation.

At 8/11/2005 8:09 PM, Blogger LL Cool T said...

Racists who are as stupid as this lady do not deserve to be punished because life is punishment enough. She will get hers. It is so easy for the government to prosecute this person and so easy for the victim to tell the story. I have not heard the landlord deny the charge and I am not saying that the victim is not telling the truth.

The real problem with racism is from people who don't tell you straight out that they are discriminating against you. These are really smart people who are just as good at excluding people without getting caught as victims are of knowing when they are facing discrimination.

I discussed the problems of racial profiling with a professional friend who lives in the big city. He told me he understands that in his neighborhood it was more likely than not that a young black male driving around in a fancy car was an appropriate target for police. But he also told me that he personally had been stopped and questioned by police over 20 times just because of the color of his skin and the car he drives.

But I digress. If I am a Landlord that does not want to rent to anyone but wealthy, white males I can do many things to achieve that goal. 1) Check credit and require a certain credit score, 2) request a large deposit, 3) request a long term lease, 4)advertise my available property privately so the wrong people do not respond, etc

Some employers are getting really good at understanding the nuances of employment discrimination law and simply need to document legitimate reasons for their actions, make sure they also discriminate against some of their white employees that they want to get rid of or not hire in the same way.

Others are still way too stupid like this landlady.

But she will be dead soon and you have to remember she grew up in a different time and her old ways of treating coloreds differently will never change.

it is kind of unfair to single her out for punishment, but I guess that is the point, showing her how unfair life is.

Now let's go fix the real problems with racism in this country.

Can't we all just get along?

Today marks the anniversery of the beginning of the Watts riots in LA. 34 dead, thousands injured and every business burned for miles. The area has never recovered from this event and we have not learned much or made the progress that we need to make in this country with issues of social and economic justice.

Wait, that's what were fighting for in Iraq, isn't it. The freedom to discriminate, or is it cheap oil, or is it to destroy the weapons of mass destruction, no its to boost our economy by providing jobs for soldiers, weapons manufacturers andthe new VA hospitals that will ned to be constructed, maybe it is for cheaper prescription drugs and to save social security.

Don't we have bigger things to worry about than a self proclaimed racist who wants control over who lives on her property? It's not like we have a housing shortage around here.

At 8/11/2005 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dope did you see the channel 8 news tonight?
There was a story on the girl from Milans that was killied in Iraq.
Her biological father was awarded a huge sum of money because of this girls death. Verschoore was questioned about it.
Apparently it is some state benefit that he championed.
But there is no way this guy deserved the money.

At 8/11/2005 10:19 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

To the first anonymous in comments, I think LL pretty much spelled it out. You can be racist as all get out, but you have to invent some other reason to not rent to them. This is the sort of stealth racism that is practiced by much of the right wing today.
You can always invent a reason for rejecting a renter or job applicant. Sometimes it's so blatant that people can still win suits, but the fact remains that there are miriad ways to discriminate while appearing not to.

And beyond that, the fact remains that it should NEVER be tolerated in this country if a person refuses to rent to or employ a person, all things being equal.
If a person has a steady job, good credit, good references, can pay the damage deposit and other requirements, then it is and very much should be against the law to discriminate against them simply because of their race, religion, sexual preference, or any other condition.
In other words, any standards, whatever they may be, for renting or selling or employment should be standard across the board for EVERYONE, PERIOD.

That's the standard, and that's as it should be.

At 8/12/2005 6:44 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Just look around at your world to see who is practicing discrimination and who is not. Check out the faces at the employers in the area - are they diversified? Check out the neighborhoods - are they diverse?

Look at your elected officials and the chiefs of police, fire and sherrifs in the area? Mostly White Males? Well yes.

Our society - everyone - has a part to play in this. Each and every person must become actively involved in all ballotting and voting and get out and make their voices heard. Everyone needs to read and educate themselves on the candidates and what they say they are about before deciding for whom to vote.

I find it quite sad that there is only one black person elected to serve our country in the US Senate - Barak Obama. There are very few minority representatives in Congress. There are way less than - I'd guess - 25% maybe - of women serving us as elected officials in all levels of government despite women making up the majority as far as gender.

So everyone has a part to play in reversing discrimination and putting a variety of faces and backgrounds into positions of power and policy making is the way to get a great start on this.

Education is key - and the only way to evolve our society into a higher plane.

Money needs to be better invested into K-12 education in every single neighborhood. The way our public schools are funded is not working. Way too much money goes to the superintendant (75% of the time a white male) - sorry to pick on the white males here - but they have not been getting the job done.

If we could get priorities straight and have more idealisim and belief that everyone can contribute if they are taught skills, we could improve our society overall and reduce discrimination in so many ways.

At 8/12/2005 8:58 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

What - no comments - either you are all white males or you don't give a darn....

At 8/13/2005 10:52 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Thought so.....


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