Based on this past year’s devastating acts of violence alone, we know racism is still very much a worldwide issue. While the more sensational stories involving police brutality often get front page, it’s important to realize it also happens in the most relaxed of settings — aka when people are on vacation with their significant other.
That’s what Victoria Yore and Terrence Drysdale, an interracial couple, experienced while on a three-month trip throughout Europe. Yore and her African-American boyfriend Drysdale run a travel photography blog called FollowMeAway that features their various excursions around the world. As such, they often stay in Airbnbs, because they allow the couple to really get into the life of the country they’re exploring. However, their recent tribulations with the home hosting site have not been as pretty as their pictures.
According to Yore, who wrote a complaint piece about the issue on her blog, as the couple made their way through Europe, they found more and more Airbnbs shutting them out than ever before. Yore believes the problem began because she changed her profile picture from a photo of herself to one of her and her different-race boyfriend while vacationing in Iceland. All of a sudden, places on Airbnb that had wide-open calendars and appeared available said they were actually booked or unable to accommodate them for one reason or another. What she’s describing is full-on, institutionalized racism.
“We are talking about the people who respond saying their listing isn’t open and don’t give an explanation. The people who keep their listings open for others to book even when they tell us they aren’t open. The people who talk with us and discover we are a couple and then offer the place to someone else,” Yore wrote in her blog post. After the profile picture change, the couple allegedly was refused from Airbnbs approximately 60 percent of the time. Before that, Yore had no such problem, which is why when the couple complained to Airbnb, they received a rather dismissive response.
And they are far from the only people who are experiencing such discrimination on Airbnb. According to a recent study conducted by the Harvard Business School, African-American hosts are losing business because of it. According to their research, white hosts make 12 percent more on average than African-American hosts make. Moreover, hosts and users with African-American-sounding names receive more negative reviews overall.
So what can be done to curtail such flagrant discrimination? Simple — Airbnb should do away with profile pictures or not make them visible until after a booking goes through. While the latter won’t prevent a host from canceling post booking, if they do it immediately after a booking goes through, it will be clearer why they canceled, and Airbnb can start penalizing hosts, especially repeat offenders.
Is it fair for guests and hosts to have to hide their faces from their prospective guests/hosts? Not at all, but neither is racism, and yet sadly it still prevails.