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The ad was placed in the monthly publication Urban Times.
Nate Chute/IndyStar

It’s no secret that Fall Creek Place is experiencing some gentrification, as more businesses open, more upscale houses are built and more affluent individuals and families quickly scoop up the housing stock.

The owners of longtime Indianapolis real estate company Flock Realty found themselves in quite the predicament this week after two questionable ads surfaced with language many perceived as racist and classist. 

The ads were placed on the back page of Urban Times, a monthly publication serving Indy’s Downtown and neighborhoods such as Fall Creek Place, Herron-Morton and the Old Northside.

The October ad characterizes Fall Creek Place as “once an unseemly place filled with unholy habitats and vice lords.” The add continues: “With blessing of the banks, brokers and bureaucrats ZMC Urban Homes began building new homes for the blessed who believed urban living could be holy, hip, righteous, and upscale.” 

Last month, Flock Realty’s ad read, in part, “They said I wouldn’t have to mow grass and they’d take care of everything. They didn’t warn me about thin walls, late night banging, insomnia, and the smell of cumin, curry, and oregano in the halls. Apt. living is oxymoronic.”

People on social media rightfully hit the roof.

It’s no secret that Fall Creek Place in Midtown is experiencing gentrification, as more businesses open, more upscale houses are built, and more affluent individuals and families quickly scoop up the housing stock.

But the implication of the first ad, intended or not, is that Fall Creek Place was an undesirable place to live when the “unholy habitats and vice lords” — minorities — resided there. But now the “holy” — white folks — have made it the place to be. 

The second ad plays heavily on stereotypes and the kind of spices frequently used by ethnic minorities such as Arab Americans and South Asians.

After a severe backlash on social media, Flock Real Estate Group posted an apology on its Facebook page that didn’t go nearly far enough. It was a non-apology, apology. You know that kind: “If we offended anyone in any way…”

And once again residents criticized them for it. 

Here’s a sample of the nearly 100 comments left on the company’s Facebook page:

“I live on that block, my house is actually in the first picture (without permission). I’m extremely disappointed by this ad and the lack of apology. You have to do better Flock. Please do not use my home in your ads.” — Leah Putnam Hallman

“You are sorry you caught flack from the community and that’s all. If you genuinely wanted to describe how far the community has come, you wouldn’t have referred to its residents in the way that you did. This apology is vacant and hollow. You thought you were being cute and clever. This “apology” still does not address the intentional vilification of minorities in said community. Would you also like to apologize for the September ad referring to “cumin, curry and oregano?” — Jared Michael

“Many good people lived in that neighborhood while it was struggling. They are victims and yet you chose to mock them with racist and elitist statements. Shame!” — Dan Foreman 

What a mess.

I spoke with Kurt Flock, who owns Flock Realty with his wife, Kate. They have been in business since 1987 and have a reputation as upstanding business owners. So what went wrong?

“Frankly, we made a mistake,” Flock said. “We made a mistake in how that ad was written and the message that people took from it, which was completely unintended. We made a mistake and we are sorry for that. 

“It’s against our character and everything we have done and stood for over the years,” he said. “We’ve been investing in helping build neighborhoods back and ensuring diversity in those neighborhoods.”    

Flock said he wrote the ads. In recent years he said his company has strayed from typical inventory real estate advertising and tried to be “a little different.”

“This one was too different,” he said. “I’m not saying any of this to defend what was obviously wrong with these two ads. I need to make that clear. I take total responsibility for it.”

It’s clear that Flock realized his first apology fell short. After speaking to me by phone he also posted a heartfelt apology on the company’s Facebook page, admitting that he was wrong and tone deaf. He also committed to attending implicit bias training at the Peace Learning Center, which was suggested on social media by a few residents.   

I have lived in Fall Creek Place since I moved to Indianapolis more than two years ago. On my street there is an amazing mix of racial and ethnic diversity. We are a family. And we certainly don’t want to be portrayed as a neighborhood where only the wealthy and whites are permitted.

I’ve been walking instead of going to the gym after work most days because the weather has been so beautiful and mild. But I also do it because it’s refreshing to interact with people in my neighborhood: to smile at the parents pushing their precious infants in strollers, to dodge the doggies who are pulling their humans around, to marvel at all the beautiful old architecture mixed with the modern amenities of the newly constructed homes.  

There’s no room in Indy to describe residents as holy or unholy. We’re all just people trying to live together, whether in our $60,000 houses or our $600,000 houses.  

Email IndyStar columnist Suzette Hackney at suzette.hackney@indystar.com. Friend her on Facebook at Suzette Hackney and follow her on Twitter: @suzyscribe. 

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