Airbnb Addresses Racial DiscriminationDamien Moye
When CEO Brian Chesky created Airbnb in 2014, he wanted to create a space for all to belong. Airbnb is a network where people open their homes to travelers for a moderate nightly fee. But not everyone is feeling the love.
Airbnb came under scrutiny last week. An ugly incident of racial discrimination surfaced in North Carolina. A black guest had booked to stay at a white person’s home through Airbnb. When the homeowner discovered the guest was African-American, not only did the homeowner cancel the booking, but cyber bullied and taunted the guest with racist tweets. These tweets were so vile I won’t even quote them here. The guest reported the ugly incident to Airbnb. This particular homeowner lost his Airbnb hosting privileges. Chesky tweeted about the matter: “The incident in NC was disturbing and unacceptable. Racism and discrimination have no place on Airbnb. We have permanently banned this host.” Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated episode. According to a Harvard study, Airbnb guest with black sounding names were 16% less likely to have their booking accepted. One African-American guest tweeted, “Funny how the dates I request are always booked even when they say available.”
A woman named Khadijah planned a trip to California. She couldn’t find a home through Airbnb. Then, she used one of her white friend’s photo. Khadijah got a room very quick. I believe Chesky and other Airbmb leaders are genuine in their war against discrimination. Airbnb isn’t the problem. The problem is the human heart and soul of the host. That’s something no law or regulation can cure. If hotels and hostels discriminate on the basis of color, they can be sued or shut down real quick. That’s why I prefer hotels and hostels over Airbnb. As a black traveler, I don’t have to play guessing games with hotels and hostels. And it’s a shame when Khadijah has to pretend to be white just for someone to open their home to her. Should Airbnb be boycotted? Would a boycott even work?