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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver

Representing the 5th District of MISSOURI

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II, and CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield Condemn Alleged Discrimination Practices of Airbnb

Jun 16, 2016
Press Release
Consumers say Popular On-line Booking Site excludes African Americans and other minorities from booking rooms on its website.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-5) and Congressional Black Caucus Chair, G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) submitted a letter to the CEO of Airbnb, Inc., Brian Chesky. The letter, which can be read here, addresses recent reports of discrimination against African Americans and other minorities who attempt to book rooms online with Airbnb.

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.  Yet, several African American consumers have been subjected to discrimination on the Airbnb Internet platform.

Airbnb is an online booking site that allows prospective guests to rent out citizens’ homes or rooms in their homes. Airbnb 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. See reports here.

“Perhaps, we have not moved as much as we think we have regarding discrimination, and homeowners just do not want people of a different race in their homes. If that is the case, you should not be permitted to utilize an interstate commerce platform such as Airbnb,” said Congressman Cleaver.

“Racism and any form of discrimination should never be tolerated in our society,” said Chairman Butterfield. “Members of the CBC are deeply concerned about recent reports of exclusion of African Americans on the Airbnb platform, and we sincerely hope the leadership of Airbnb will take the issue of discrimination seriously and implement common sense measures to prevent such discrimination and ill-treatment of its customers in the future.”   

Chairman Butterfield and Congressman Cleaver urge Airbnb to conduct a comprehensive review of these accusations, as well as pinpoint how this issue is occurring and put an end to such practices and to not permit users to post availability of their units for 48 hours after they rejected someone from renting their unit.

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Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee's Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, and also a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.

For more information, please contact Heather Frierson at 816-842-4545 or Heather.Frierson@mail.house.gov.