While the political and social climate of the United States has been in bad shape lately, it doesn’t look like it’s been getting any better. Recently, an Airbnb rental host in Big Bear refused service to Dyne Suh, a 25-year-old Korean law student at the University of California, Los Angeles, solely because of her race.
With plans for a short vacation over President’s Day weekend with her fiance, Suh booked a home in Big Bear Lake through Airbnb, a home rental company, for Feb. 17. When Suh decided to bring two extra people along on the trip, she asked the Airbnb rental host if she could have the additional guests over by paying an additional fee, and was granted permission to do so. However, when Suh and her guests were just minutes away from arriving at the home, Suh checked in with the host to re-confirm her arrival, only to be responded to with shockingly racist and derogatory remarks such as “I wouldn’t rent to u if u were the last person on earth,” and “One word says it all. Asian.”
In an interview that Suh gave to KTLA News, she said, “I just feel so hurt.” “It stings that after living in the US for over 23 years, this is what happens (…) if you’re Asian, you’re less than human and people can treat you like trash.” As an Asian-American woman myself, I empathize with Suh’s hurt and anger because I have fallen victim to racist and xenophobic comments in the past, simply based on the fact that I am Asian. Therefore, it truly saddens me that the color of someone’s skin, or a person’s phenotypes can elicit such extensive levels of hatred and malice. You would think that by 2017, we would have resolved such social issues, yet tragically, that certainly is not the case.
Furthermore, Airbnb is not a stranger to cases such as these. According to the Los Angeles Times, after Airbnb received an increasing number of complaints about hosts refusing guests service because of their race, the company launched a three-month review in 2016 that confirmed the issues with racism within the company. Ergo, the company implemented the “Open Doors” policy, a policy that guarantees alternate services to guests who were unable to book a listing due to discrimination. In response to Suh’s case, while Airbnb has not revealed specific information about the host, the company has now banned the host from listing rentals under Airbnb.
I am glad to see that a company as high-profile as Airbnb is not only addressing, but also taking measures against racism and working toward being more inclusive to people of all different races and backgrounds. While it is understandable that the company does not have control over the actions and decisions of its hosts, it certainly does have control over the ways in which it handles the discriminatory and racist actions of its hosts, and we can see that sentiment through the “Open Doors” policy.
The intervention of large-scale companies such as Airbnb is a big step toward the holistic fight against racism, and the progression of society. When a company as high-profile as Airbnb is held liable for the actions of its users, the issues regarding racism become more projected, and therefore, a wider spread of awareness is raised. Moreover, through Airbnb’s defense for Suh, by banning the racist host and enacting of the “Open Doors” policy, the company has stood up for innumerable members of society who have also been discriminated against in the past. While Suh’s incident was extremely unfortunate, I hope that in light of this case more people and organizations — whether it be multi-million dollar companies, or the average person walking down the street — gather together in solidarity and work toward combatting racism, discrimination and prejudice.