#AirbnbWhileBlack aka Racism Lurks Everywhere

2 min read

Disclosure: I received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own since I have too many lofty standards for integrity to write about something I don’t believe in. Plus, this is a legit post in and of itself.

Since moving to New York not too long ago, I’ve stayed in six different homes in three different boroughs. All but two of those places I booked through Airbnb, a peer-to-peer service similar to Uber and Tinder, but not for ride-sharing or getting your freak on. It’s like matchmaking for people with short-term rental property and people looking to rent. I’ve got stories for days about my experiences as an Airbnb renter, but I want to touch on one in particular.

#AirbnbWhileBlack

You may be familiar with #AirbnbWhileBlack, the hashtag that quickly gained traction on Twitter, and attracted coverage from several media outlets. NPR even hosted a Twitter chat on the subject. Tweet after tweet, Airbinb users contributed personal accounts of rental requests being rejected due to discrimination by the host.

Unwelcome Mat from "#AirbnbWhileBlack aka Racism Lurks Everywhere" at The Girl Next Door is Black

Back in 2014, a Harvard study found that: “…requests from guests with distinctively African-American names are roughly 16% less likely to be accepted than identical guests with distinctively White names.”

This data doesn’t surprise me as someone named “Keisha,” born and raised in these United States, where the current presumptive Presidential nominee from the Republican party wants to ban Muslims from immigrating, export undocumented residents – zeroing in on people of Mexican-descent, and refers to Black people as “the Blacks.”

I’ve encountered some roadblocks with hosts – specifically three different White men – whose listings showed their rentals as available on the dates I wanted, but they denied my requests when I inquired. Each claimed their rentals were already booked. I didn’t think too much of it, other than feeling frustrated that they wasted my time. However, when I read that other Black people had experiences very similar to mine, I couldn’t dismiss the issue.

In one particularly glaring example of #AirbnbWhileBlack, a young black man, Rohan, shared his jaw-dropping exchange with a White host who denied his booking, again claiming unavailability. Amazingly though, when Rohan’s White friend inquired about reserving the place for the same dates, miraculously the rental became available! Divine intervention or good old-fashioned racism?

When Black people point out racial bias (of the conscious and unconscious types) and outright racism, we sometimes hear a common lazy retort from the callous and unsympathetic: “Well, why don’t you start your own thing then?”

That’s exactly what Rohan did.

Along with his co-founder Zakiyyah, the two developed a new vacation, and short-term rentals service:  Innclusive (formerly known as Noirebnb). This new platform aims to provide a space where people from all backgrounds will feel welcome regardless of what you look like, how you identify yourself, what you believe in, or what name you were given.

The discrimination issues extend beyond Black people, as folks from other marginalized groups (including non-Black Muslims, and a transgender woman) have reported similar issues. They inquire about booking an available rental, only to have the host deny their requests, again responding that the listing is already booked. How curious.

Clearly, something needs to change and short of ending all forms of bigotry overnight, a platform like Innclusive stands to expand access to the home-sharing economy to people who might otherwise be shut out or disadvantaged.

 

I believe in the concept of home-sharing – despite a few bizarre experiences, including a near poisoning by carbon monoxide! –  especially in a society where we’ve become increasingly isolated from each other. When you meet the right host, you have the chance to connect with someone you may not have otherwise met. Other benefits are the comfort of a more personal experience, as well the opportunity to live somewhat like a local – factors which differentiate home-sharing from hotel stays.

As someone who faces potential discrimination by hosts on Airbnb, I look forward to trying out Innclusive. Who needs a side helping of racism when they’re searching for that perfect spot for their next vacation?

Visit Innclusive here and sign up for an email notification when the site officially launches! You can also follow Innclusive on Facebook and Twitter.

Have you experienced discrimination online? Do you think there’s a need for spaces like Innclusive?

13 Comments
  • Jessica
    June 27, 2016

    HI Keisha! I’m glad I stumbled across your blog because I appreciate your perspective.

    Unfortunately I too have experienced the “Airbnb color curve,” as I call it. My besties and I were looking for a place in NOLA for the upcoming Essence music festival. When my bestie inquired about a place listed as “available” the host responded that he was hoping to rent to someone with some reviews on their profile. She suspected it was because of her skin color, but I told her I would request to book because I had reviews(and much lighter skin) . I did not mention that my friends and I were coming to town for the Essence festival because he might know we were travelling together and be inclined to deny me as well. Almost immediately the host accepted my request (because I look white in my profile pic) BUT jacked the price way up stating that tons of people were requesting his place!!!

    Needless to say, we politely declined staying with him and decided to book with someone a little more “inclusive.” In the future I will check out “Innclusive” because lately Airbnb has not only been a hassle for my friends and I personally, but the bad publicity is a turn off.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      July 7, 2016

      I’m sorry that you had to experience that Jessica. One of the worst things about racism is that it’s so insidious, it affects almost every aspect of our lives. Too often we are left wondering if we were treated differently due to our skin color. And being women, we have the double “burden” of dealing with the confluence of racism and sexism. Yet, we persist. We find workarounds. We build our own things. We don’t have to put up with ignorant people treating us poorly due to our “race.”

  • Bread
    June 24, 2016

    This looks great but it’s a shame that this even needs to be a thing you know? Hopefully this will be something that the LGBTQ community will find helpful and get behind too.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      June 24, 2016

      Yeah, it is a shame. People seem to be going particularly bonkers over those who are different from them these days. It’s silly, we’re talking about short-term housing, not dating or baby-making.

      I’m sure there’ll be users from the LGBT community since there will be overlap/intersection among demographics. It’s cliche to say, but I truly wish we’d all make more of an effort to not be assholes to each other.

  • lastchance3
    June 23, 2016

    I had no clue this happens, but then again, I also have never used AirBnB. I’m sorry to hear that this happens. You think if someone has a service and another is willing to pay for it that race and creed wouldn’t matter.

    On a side note, welcome to New York! I hope you are enjoying it.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      June 23, 2016

      Yeah, that’s the thing about prejudice – it’s illogical. And the thing with airbnb is that you pay in advance and there is insurance for hosts. I’m not sure what these people think is gonna happen when renters get to their place. Wild “Black” parties? Home -based transgender surgeries? I mean really.

      And thank you! I’m enjoying NY!

      • lastchance3
        June 23, 2016

        Lol. I kind of want to know what they think wild black parties are. It sounds kind of fun. lol. Glad to hear it!

  • Jarret Ruminski
    June 23, 2016

    Hey, you’re back! But sorry you have to write about more crap like this 🙁

  • Heidi
    June 22, 2016

    I’ll check it out. I have just booked my first Airbnb for tomorrow night in York. I was always a little bit hesitant to use it due to safety concerns. I’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow. But I’ll definitely check out Innclusive too. I’m guessing it’s only US based right now?

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      June 22, 2016

      I had some concerns about safety, but if you have street smarts, and a good eye for spotting scams, you should be fine. And always trust your instincts.

      Innclusive is international!

  • rohanmirror
    June 22, 2016

    Thanks so much for this post Keisha, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. Much luv and respect. ~Rohan from innclusive.com

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