Airbnb Got Called Out For Allowing Racial Discrimination & Twitter Had A Lot To Say About It

When booking our Airbnb for our upcoming trip to Atlanta, my boyfriend insisted that I make a profile and do the booking. I scoffed at him, assuming that this was just a chore that he didn’t want to do, but then he insisted that “we won’t get denied if [I] do it.” Being that I am white and my boyfriend’s black, he didn’t want to risk being denied due to blatant discrimination. It seems ridiculous that something like this still happens, but sadly the world at large is not as woke as we’d like to think.

Gregory Selden, a 25-year-old black man from Virginia, was denied a room via Airbnb when planning a trip to Philadelphia. When he created two fake profiles using the image of a white man, he was magically approved for the room that he was previously told to be “unavailable.” Airbnb did not respond to his initial complaints, but now that the story has gone viral, they have no choice but to address the blatant racial discrimination that has been happening on the site.

It’s 2016. It shouldn’t matter which one of us — me or my boyfriend — takes the 15 minutes to make the profile, but the internet sadly confirms my boyfriend’s initial suspicions. In addition to Selden, many people have shared their experiences of being discriminated against on Airbnb using the hashtag #Airbnbwhileblack.

Here was Selden’s initial Tweet from earlier this month.

Selden is seeking to take his case to court by filing a class action suit against Airbnb to represent others that have been discriminated against in such a way.

According to NPR, Harvard scholars performed a study on Airbnb approval rates between “white sounding” and “black sounding” names.

“They sent out 6,400 requests to real AirBnb hosts in five major American cities—Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington.All the requests were exactly the same except for the names they gave their make-believe travelers. Some had African American-sounding names like Jamal or Tanisha and others had stereotypically white-sounding names like Meredith or Todd.

Requests with African American sounding names were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than their white-sounding counterparts. They found discrimination across the board: among cheap listings and expensive listings, in diverse neighborhoods and homogenous neighborhoods, and with novice hosts as well as experienced hosts. They also found that black hosts were also less likely to accept requests from guests with African American-sounding names than with white-sounding ones.”

The obvious solution would be to prevent the homeowners from viewing the profile pictures until the reservation has been confirmed. This solution was of course met with resistance. INDEPENDENT reports that Airbnb is “taking steps.”

“Airbnb’s Head of Diversity & Belonging David King acknowledged that “bias and discrimination present significant challenges” and said they were taking steps to fix the issue.

But he said the company did not want to remove profile pictures.”Profile photos are an important part of our community and are one of the many tools that help hosts and guests connect with one another,” he told the New York Daily News.“We welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community.”

Selden is a great example of what we should all do when rampant discrimination pops up its gross little head: call it out. Good on people like him who report it to anyone and everyone who will listen.