Airbnb host Tami Barker, from California, cancelled a guest’s booking on 17 February because the guest was Asian.
Law clerk, Dyne Suh, had reserved the cabin in February for herself, her boyfriend and two friends, but was told by Barker minutes before their arrival that, “I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth,” she wrote in a text. “One word says it all. Asian.”
“It’s why we have Trump,” she added. “I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.”
Barker has been ordered to pay $5,000 in damages for racial discrimination.
This is the first time an Airbnb host has been penalised for racial discrimination under an agreement between San Francisco based Airbnb and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), announced earlier this year. The agreement allows the regulator to test and penalise Airbnb hosts for racial prejudice.
In addition to the fine Barker has to:
- take a college-level course in Asian American studies,
- agree to comply with anti-discrimination laws,
- make a personal apology to Dyne Suh,
- participate in a community education panel and
- volunteer with a civil rights organization.
When Suh also complained to DFEH, an investigation was launched along with mediation sessions. The idea of making the Barker attend the Asian American studies course came out during the mediation sessions.
Speaking about the arrangements, Kevin Kish, director of DFEH said: “The law tends to be backwards-looking, focusing on compensating people for harm. We’re interested in remedies that repair harm and transform relationships.”
“A lot of times when we see bias incidents it involves a lack of understanding of the experiences and histories of a particular group of people,” Kish said. “This was a creative way to address that core underlying cause of the bias.”
“We want there to be strong anti-discrimination protections and preventions of harm, but we recognise that the world isn’t divided into good guys and bad guys. Humans have biases and we also need to recognise that humans change.”
In an interview with the Breakfast Club, comedian, Trevor Noah said that racism is a mental illness and should be treated in the same way we treat alcoholism. I’m inclined to agree with him. Racists shouldn’t be left to wallow in self-pity when they are shunned from decent society. It doesn’t solve the problem and probably makes their hatred grow.
Maybe people who have been convicted of racists/hate crimes should be made to walk a mile in the shoes of the minority group they find so offensive. Perhaps with proper counselling and targeted studies they may come to the realisation that their hatred is unfounded, probably driven by fear from the media and a lack of understanding of the group they demonise.
Or maybe not.
What are your thoughts?