In Niagara Falls, NY, a woman who rents an apartment put up a sign that says she will only rent to white people. Clearly she has a prejudice (at best) and is possibly racist (at worst), and it is certainly disappointing, if not outrageous, to know that she would even want to do business in this way.
But is it wrong for her to want to do business this way? On the surface, our initial reaction should be that it is indeed wrong. Shouldn’t all of us doing business do so with equal treatment of all who wish to do exchange with us? Do we not owe it to the rest of society to do business and not play favorites?
Under the surface, there are two considerations, and both could be present at the same time. The first issue is that of her heart. If she is harboring judgment upon those who are not white like her (which, by the way, excludes not only black people but latinos and asians), then she has a problem with her heart. She could still choose to exchange property (money for an apartment in this case) while dealing with her internal feelings. The second issue is that of her right and freedom to do business with whomever she desires. On that level, there is little problem with her decision to only do business with the people of her choosing. Hooters only hires females as servers at its restaurants—is that sexist? The NFL only hires men to play football—is that sexist? Everyday businesses choose only to exchange goods or services only with persons who have the amount of money to purchase those goods or services—is that classism?
In a free market, persons have the right to choose to do business with whomever they see fit. While at first this may seem unfair, remember that there are consequences to doing business, both good and bad. Racist as it may seem, non-whites seeking to rent from her will not waste their time seeking to rent from her (had she merely kept it a secret and decided to not publicize her intentions, more people would have sought to rent from her). White people who would have rented from her without this knowledge will undoubtedly not rent from her; why would they want to have a landlord who has such feelings? Knowing so ahead of time means they end up with potentially less frustration in the end, when there is a lease entanglement. Imagine finding out this information about your landlord while you have 10 months left on your lease!
Is she wrong to have these feelings? Without more information, I can’t judge her intentions, but my hunch is she has some sin issues to deal with internally. From a legislative standpoint, she has every right to make these decisions; it’s her property and she can rent to whom she wants. But it makes sense that in the predominantly non-racist society in which we live, the market will have negative effects on her ability to perform business transactions. She’ll suffer from this, no doubt.