Photo via Open Grid Scheduler / Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
Airbnb permanently banned a North Carolina host after he sent racist and threatening messages to a black woman who had booked his property. Unfortunately, this is just one more incident of many that have been chronicled with the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.Airbnb user Shani Taylor posted the images of the messages her friend received from the host, which prompted Airbnb to ban him.
Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas told USA Today, “We were horrified when we read these messages. The language and conduct are unacceptable and violate both our policies and everything we believe in. This host has been removed from Airbnb and we’ve reached out to the guest to offer our full and complete support, including ensuring the guest has a safe place to stay.”
Last month, Gregory Selden brought a class-action lawsuit against Airbnb after being rejected from a property when using his own profile, but accepted for the same dates using a fake profile of a white man. His experience led to the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack, which shows the ways in which an unregulated sharing economy can put people at the mercy of racist hosts.
Author Rohan Gikes also wrote about his experience for Medium. He was attempting to book an Airbnb and kept having his requests cancelled, with hosts telling him they were booked those dates. “So I had a white friend book for my same dates and all of a sudden her plans changed back hahaha. Approved immediately!”
In the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Jamilla Jefferson-Jones writes about the evidence of this practice, including one study that showed black Airbnb guests were “16% less likely to be successful in securing accommodations than whites.” Making public profiles on Airbnb is part of its business model, and on their site, the company states that “confirming personal details” is part of how it ensures trust and safety. However, that means hosts and guests can decide who to stay with based on things like race. Jefferson-Jones writes that an “effort must be made by the federal government to bring old economy anti-discrimination efforts in line with the new economy.”