Though closely linked, race, color and national origin are different protected characteristics. Race refers to whether a person is White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or an Alaska Native, or is a Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. A person may be of mixed race. A person’s national origin, on the other hand, refers to their country of origin or ancestry. Under a Fair Housing analysis, for example, Hispanic or Latino would generally constitute national origin, not race.

Race discrimination is perhaps the most well known types of housing discrimination, having been a central reason for the enactment of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. It is illegal for housing providers, real estate agents, brokers and banks to discriminate against any individual because of their actual race, their perceived race, or because they are multiracial. It is also illegal to discriminate against an individual because he or she is in an interracial relationship, or has a multiracial family.

A housing provider may also not discriminate against a current or prospective tenant because they associate with people of a particular race. For example, as a tenant, you cannot be treated differently because you have African American guests. A housing provider may also not treat your guests differently because of their race.

What Is Color Discrimination?

Color discrimination is closely linked to race discrimination. It refers to the color of a person’s skin. In other words, color discrimination is when homeseekers are treated differently because they have lighter or darker skin. A classic example is when a housing provider will only rent to light skinned African Americans, but not those that are darker skinned.

What Do Race and Color Discrimination Look Like?

The following may be evidence of race or color discrimination in housing:

  • Asking people where they are from, or what they “are”
  • Making comments about associating with “those people”
  • Being told a unit is available on the phone, but being told it has been rented when you visit in person.
  • When a manager says you wouldn’t be comfortable because there aren’t any other people who look like you
  • A building where people of different races are segregated
  • A lender who charges higher interest rates
  • When a bank won’t agree to a home loan in neighborhoods of color
  • A manager who only stops and questions your black guests, but not your white guests.
  • A neighbor who uses racial epithets

Race and Color Discrimination Resources

Government Resources Other Resources