A Commendable Step in the Right Direction
In June, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) and I sent a letter to the CEO of Airbnb, Inc. Brian Chesky. The letter, which can be found here, addressed recent reports of discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities who attempt to book rooms online with Airbnb.
Airbnb, the online booking site that allows prospective guests to rent out hosts’ homes or rooms in their homes, features a guest profile page which includes a picture, as well as other details about the guest. Some online users, particularly African Americans and other minorities, including members of the LGBT community, applied for accommodations online but were rejected. Some were told the room was not available, then later saw the same place listed as available. Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation, including hotels and motels, because of race, color, religion or national origin.
Yesterday, Airbnb announced new anti-discrimination policies, which include a commitment to increasing the number of homes available through Instant Book, allowing guests to book a home without the prior approval of a host. Airbnb also announced a new policy, “Open Doors” to assist guests who feel they have been discriminated against to find another place to stay, as well as anti-bias training for its entire community.
After meeting with Airbnb staff this week, it is encouraging that the company has decided to respond constructively to the letter Chairman Butterfield and I sent to CEO Brian Chesky in June regarding discriminatory behavior by a number of Airbnb hosts. This is a commendable step in the right direction and I am confident that Airbnb will continue to take the correct actions to ensure that all consumers are treated as equals when using Airbnb’s services.
Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress