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A Woman Was Left Stranded By AirBnb Host Because Of Race: Is There Racial Bias Among AirBnb Hosts?

9 April 2017, 8:15 am EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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Recent unfortunate events involving a 25-year-old American citizen and her Airbnb host, who reportedly canceled her reservation at the last minute simply for being Asian American, has led to the host being banned from Airbnb.

Last Minute Cancellation

Law student, Dyne Suh, and her companions were reportedly on the way to their Airbnb reservation in Big Bear Lake just east of Los Angeles. However, Suh states that they were only three minutes away from the mountain cabin in Running Springs, California when they were told that the reservation has been canceled.

Shocked at the host's sudden hostility toward her, especially since they have had previous decent contact, Suh told her that she had screenshots of their exchange and that she would post them on Facebook. However, this did not faze the host as indicated by her replies that many would deem racist.

"One word says it all. Asian," the host reportedly replied via text.

The conversation continued as the host remained firm on the decision, and used further strong language to describe her displeasure, and even saying: "It's why we have trump."

It was then that Suh took screenshots of the conversation and posted them on Facebook, though the problem had just gotten worse because of a winter storm at the time, making it difficult for the group to travel back.

Fortunately, a KTLA 5 News van was also in the vicinity to cover the winter storm, and one of the station's reporters interviewed an emotional Suh who recounted the events and tearfully stated that she is an American citizen. She also expressed her dismay regarding the treatment that she received simply for being Asian American.

The events happened in the middle of February but were only reported this week by NBC Los Angeles and KTLS 5 News.

The host has since been banned from renting out her property via Airbnb.

Racial Bias In Airbnb?

Due to the incidences of alleged discrimination among Airbnb hosts, a team from Harvard conducted a study in 2015 where the team sent out queries on Airbnb using a variety of white and black sounding names.

Results revealed that white-sounding names got accepted 50 percent of the time, while black-sounding names were accepted 42 percent of the time. Further, queries from black-sounding names received discriminatory replies from nearly every kind of hosts.

Researchers stress that this difference does not necessarily mean that Airbnb hosts are racists or discriminatory, but that the lack of anonymity in Airbnb gives its users the ability to act on any hidden biases that they may have.

While the researchers did not take Hispanic and Asian names into account, the recent events could contribute to their current results. However, perhaps the question to be answered isn't whether companies like Airbnb provides a platform where racial bias, intended or not, is exercised, but why this problem still persists in this day and age, and how it can be solved.

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