My Awkward Undercover Life Demolishing Housing Discrimination
I’ve always had a fear of telling even the smallest white lies. So when I took a do-gooder job built on deception, the results were equal parts terrifying and hilarious.
Illustrations by Jia Sung
I have never been comfortable with the casual lying that pervades social encounters. I’m sorry I’m late; traffic was a nightmare. I would happily attend your son’s bris if only it weren’t scheduled during my oral surgery. If your ex wants to date a bubbly polyglot who can’t consume an entire sandwich in a single sitting instead of you, then it’s his loss.
Even as a teenager my personal style was more one of willful disobedience than deceit. I was far more likely to stroll in after curfew with an anti-authoritarian swagger and no explanation whatsoever than to concoct a flimsy story about a flat tire or a chupacabra sighting. While much of the world accepts dishonesty as a necessary component of social exchanges, to me, it’s always felt exotic.
That’s why I was so intrigued when my friend Brad mentioned that a friend of his had worked as a housing discrimination tester here in L.A. The setup was this: A non-profit I’ll call the Southern California Fair Housing As…