Tag Archives discrimination

#AirbnbWhileBlack aka Racism Lurks Everywhere

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?

I Get Tired of Talking About Race Too

When I created this blog, I never expected to write about race and ethnicity as much as I have. However, like I say in my blog summary, being a black person in America, my “race” has an undeniable impact on my life. I’m not going to wake up one magical morning and discover that I can change shade when I walk out in the world. Cloak myself in a different skin color, so I can experience what it’s like to walk through this world free from all the invisible pressures of the expectations of blackness.

racism hate bigotry intolerance bias
Photo cr: Steven Depolo, flickr.com

Never was it my goal to become a spokesperson or activist for the fight against racism. It’s an uphill battle that requires a lot of strength of character and resilience.

It takes courage to lay your thoughts bare, opening yourself up to public scrutiny and commentary. In today’s America where just mentioning someone’s race makes you “racist” in the eyes of some, there is risk of being misinterpreted or having your words misconstrued into negativity.

In moments where I feel so overwhelmed by the continued prejudice and racial strife I read about or experience day after day, I wonder sometimes why I even bother. Will things ever get better?

Below is a fairly recent conversation between me and my friend Sam, who like me, often posts articles or discussion starters about race and ethnicity. Unlike me, he is a Korean-American male, so his perspective is different from mine. Often, I feel starved for genuine, productive conversation about racism and prejudice in the United States. Too many people seem happy to remain apathetic, or they’re afraid to discuss it for fear of seeming racist or ignorant, or they hope if they ignore the problems they will go away. Well, they won’t and it frustrates me how seemingly content some are to leave things at status quo. My friend, is not one to shrink from difficult or uncomfortable discussions and I value our conversations.

__

Keisha
Have you heard about the movie “Dear White People“?

Sam
Yes. Want to see it.

Keisha
Its “outraging” some people.

Sam
How come?

Keisha
“It’s so racist!”
“If this movie was called ‘Dear Black People’ THEY would freak out.”
“We’re never going to move past racism if we keep talking about it. Stop blaming white people for your problems!” etc. etc.

Sam
Yeah expected as much. In a climate where being empathetic to Muslims is antisemitic, favoritism abounds

Keisha
This is true. The misguided outrage mimics the past in so many ways and people just cannot see it.

Sam
Its based on class I believe. Richer minorities are preferred. Abe Lincoln said he was empathetic to blacks (African-Americans) because he was poor. Their race implies their class as he put it.

Keisha
Yeah, there’s truth to that.

Sam
Sadly to many, when black or dark skin represents aspirations, their views will change. It’s still tied to idea that working class are dark because they work outside

Keisha
I don’t expect to live long enough to see dark skin represent aspiration.

Sam
Noooooo! People like us can change the world in small ways.

Keisha
It’s just exhausting sometimes, feels like a never-ending battle, one that I never volunteered for. I just can’t keep my mouth shut when I feel things are wrong. But, you’re right, I know. Which is why I am happy that people like you exist.

Sam
As we get older we want to make the battle for the next gen easier.

Keisha
True and I’ll remind myself of that.

Sam
Seems like you can’t help yourself anymore. You’re a citizen activist!