The furor over racial discrimination at Airbnb, Inc. has been elevated to Capitol Hill.
It’s welcome news –and right on time.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D- NC), and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) reached out to Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, in an effort to strong-arm Chesky into ordering a thorough investigation of the racial allegations at his company.
“Members of the CBC are deeply concerned about recent reports of exclusion of African-Americans on the Airbnb platform, and we sincerely hope the leadership of Airbnb will take the issue of discrimination seriously and implement common sense measures to prevent such discrimination and ill-treatment of its customers in the future,” Butterfield and Cleaver said in a joint statement.
Butterfield and Cleaver said Airbnb could be in violation of Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation, including hotels and motels, “because of race, color, religion or national origin.”
“Several African-American consumers have been subjected to discrimination on the Airbnb Internet platform. Racism and any form of discrimination should never be tolerated in our society,” Butterfield and Cleaver said in a release.
In addition, according to media reports, Airbnb executives were scheduled to meet with civil rights leaders in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the racial discrimination controversy.
According to USA Today, some of the participants will include Laura Murphy, Director of the Washington, D.C. office of the American Civil Liberties Union, Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, and Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Murphy, according to USA Today, will lead the review of Airbnb.
Racial discrimination is rampant during online bookings, according to a Harvard study, especially if Airbnb hosts realize that the folks requesting a stay are Black.
The Harvard Business School study also revealed that guests with African-American sounding names were 16% more likely to be rejected by Airbnb hosts than guests with stereotypically white-sounding names.
“Perhaps, we, as a nation have not moved, as much as we like to brag that we have, regarding discrimination and homeowners just do not want people of a different race in their homes,” said Cleaver. “If that is the case, you should not be permitted to utilize an interstate commerce platform such as Airbnb.”
Chesky told 800 Airbnb employees last week that he plans to spend several months working to eradicate racism at Airbnb.
“We have zero tolerance for any racism or intolerance on our platform and will take swift action if we hear of it,” Chesky said. “I myself have personally engaged with a number of people who have been discriminated against on our platform.”
I’ll wait for the conclusion of Murphy’s review and I may consider lodging through Airbnb in the future.
But not now.
What do you think?