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