Airbnb has been in the news a lot recently about racist hosts. The way the company works is that people list their homes or spare rooms on the site and then people “apply” to stay there for however long they need. Both the hosts and the guests create profiles through the website as a safety precaution. This draws the question of discrimination, however, because hosts have the ability to reject an applicant based on their race, gender, etc. unlike a traditional hotel. This is of increasing concern as Airbnb continues to grow in popularity over traditional accommodations.
One study, from Harvard Business School, shows that people are less likely to accept guests with African-American sounding names. Applicants with traditional African-American names were rejected 58% of the time compared to applicants with traditional white sounding names who were rejected 50% of the time.
Airbnb has addressed the concerns saying, “Airbnb is one of the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent communities in the world. We respond quickly to any concerns raised by hosts or guests, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination on our platform.”
Although it’s illegal for hosts to discriminate guests based on their race, Airbnb can’t be held liable because they have policies in place and monitor the hosts. They can ban someone for discriminating, but they cannot change a person’s deep rooted beliefs.
There are two ways to use Airbnb. One is to stay within the social boundaries of racial segregation. The other is to embrace the opportunity of experiencing other cultures. Living in a predominantly white area, you have no choice but to be friends with only white people. There are very few opportunities to go into the home of a minority family. Airbnb opens what might be a natural opportunity to embrace the diversity.