If you’re African-American and planning a vacation, you may want to check out a hotel before booking Airbnb.
Hosts on Airbnb haven’t exactly welcomed Black folks into their homes. Racial discrimination, according to a Harvard study, is rampant during online bookings, especially if hosts with Airbnb conclude that the folks who are booking are Black.
I’ve arranged for lodging through Airbnb before — but I won’t be booking through the home rental company again. As I’ve written before in this space, the notion of a post-racial society after the election of President Barack Obama is just that — a notion.
When a series of racial incidents on Airbnb sparked online protests, Brian Chesky, the CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, addressed the issue with 800 employees in San Francisco last week.
“We have zero tolerance for any racism or intolerance on our platform and will take swift action if we hear of it,” Chesky said. “I myself have personally engaged with a number of people who have been discriminated against on our platform.”
He said the company will spend several months ridding the lodging service of discrimination.
The racial discrimination has sparked a hashtag — #AirbnbWhileBlack.
“My friends and I are all well-educated, paid, etc.,” said one user. “But I’m getting denied solely bc of my name/how I look. That’s hard.”
A Harvard Business School study also found a higher rejection rate for guests whose names sounded African-American. The study revealed that guests with African-American sounding names were 16% more likely to be rejected by Airbnb hosts than guests with stereotypically white-sounding names.
One host reportedly used racist language while rejecting a guest from Nigeria. Some Black guests told reporters they were initially rejected, but were accepted after they re-applied using a photo of a white person.
Gregory Selden, a 25-year-old black man, is suing Airbnb for violating the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. He was trying to book a rental home in Philadelphia in March 2015. Selden was rejected — the host said the home was “unavailable” — but when Selden created a fake profile and used a white male photo, the Airbnb host immediately told Selden the house was ready for rental.
It’s unfortunate that 52 years after the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964, Black folks are still suing businesses for racial discrimination. Years ago, the Negro Motorist Green Book helped Black travelers avoid lodging discrimination. Do we need that again?
With Donald Trump using racially coded and outright racist rhetoric in his quest for the White House, I fear that his bigoted constituents will feel more and more comfortable openly discriminating against African-Americans and other people of color in many different ways.
Since the Airbnb controversy surfaced, two new websites have been created to compete against them — Noirbnb.com and Noirebnb.com, two separate startups established by Black folks as an alternative rental home company. (Noir is “black” in French.)
In addition, a new 30-second TV ad which aired in New York and five other cities where Airbnb is well-known, is narrated by a Black Airbnb guest who says she is often rejected by Airbnb hosts.
“I get declined all the time on Airbnb. Hosts would have one excuse after another,” she says. “We deserve better.”
Yes, we do.
What do you think?