Airbnb has teamed up with the NAACP in order to help make their company seem less racist. According to The Verge, “the NAACP will help Airbnb target communities that could benefit greatly for home-sharing services and the tourism and additional income they provide. Airbnb will also gift 20 percent of its earnings from rentals in these communities to the NAACP, which will return the favor by aiding the company in its workplace diversity efforts.” But is that really going to help? Honestly, I don’t think so. Simply because I don’t think that’s the real problem. So how is this a solution?
The problem has more to do with Airbnb’s policies, and the fact that they allow these kinds of things to happen. Even if it’s indirect, it’s still discrimination and should not be tolerated. Airbnb hosts have been accused of telling people who are black, that their home isn’t available during the days they want them. And then they go and rent them to people who are white. Which, in my mind is completely wrong, and a huge sign of discrimination. Which leads me back to my point about the NAACP partnership. How is targeting communities going to make any difference?
I could be wrong on this one, but isn’t the point of Airbnb to act in a short term rental kind of situation? More specifically when you’re away on some kind of vacation? If that’s not the case, and people are booking longer term within their own communities, I think they’re using it wrong. And maybe that’s a policy that Airbnb should address. As far as discrimination goes, this one is on Airbnb. Because a “requirement” for booking is that you have a picture of yourself. Maybe it’s you and your partner. This allows the host to determine your worth. On one hand, I get it. You want to make sure that you’re renting to someone who is reputable. They’re in your home after all. But is there a different way to do this?
Could Airbnb vet people in a different way, and then not disclose their picture until later in the process? I remember when I created my account. I was trying to find a picture that didn’t show me out drinking or partying. But one that also wasn’t my online dating profile. Your picture says a lot about who you are and maybe how you spend your time. Which is understandable when it comes to renting your house out to someone. But it should not have anything to do with your race. Period. Full stop.
Will this partnership work? I honestly have my doubts. But because I’m in favour of diversity, I hope that it will bring some change. Airbnb isn’t condoning the behaviour of their hosts. In fact, they have banned the hosts who have discriminated against guests. But I wonder if that is enough? I’m hesitant to make any predictions on this, but I suspect that this partnership isn’t going to make much of a difference. I further suspect that this will be back in the news at some point in the near future.