Airbnb can be a great part of the sharing economy. It gives people the opportunity to make a little extra scratch on the side by renting out a room (or a whole place) and offers weary travelers a little shelter for a night or two without breaking the bank on a hotel. In principal it should be a great. Yet Airbnb has been plagued with problems stemming from cities banning them for monopolizing housing, to rampant racism and bigotry amongst their hosts. And, unfortunately but maybe not surprisingly, that racism reared its ugly head again in California.
Dyne Suh was already en route to a cabin she’d rented and confirmed to stay in via the Airbnb app when a baffling act of bigotry took place. Suh texted the host to confirm everything, including the number of guests, and was quickly rebutted by her host. According to Suh’s text message exchange the Airbnb host refused Suh saying, “I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth.”
The next message from the host to Suh simply says, “One word says it all. Asian.”
The thread continues with Suh telling the host she plans to report the incident to Airbnb. And the host dismisses the idea by simply replying “Go ahead” and “This is why we have Trump.” Which is quixotic at best. Do we “have” Trump so we can be racist? Or is it that Trump gives you latitude to being your racist self publicly? It’s probably the latter given that racist violence has spiked since Trump ascended to office.
Suh of course canceled the Airbnb booking and stopped payment going to the host. She also took her incident to social media and the bed sharing app. Airbnb has been trying to rehabilitate its ineptitude at quelling systemic racism and bigotry amongst since last year. It started by Airbnb finally admitting it had a serious problem and then working towards fixing it. The company instituted a new policy that forbids hosts from denying their lodgings “due to race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or marital status.” Obviously, this case clearly falls into one of those categories.
According to a NBC news report Airbnb responded by permanently banning the racist hosts from the app and called the actions “unacceptable.” Thankfully they didn’t call the host’s actions deplorable. At the very least Airbnb is sticking to its guns and fighting back against racism and bigotry in a time when derogatory speech is being spewed from the highest office in the land. And hate speech will always beget hate.