AirBNB seems like an amazing idea: Owners offer rooms — and sometimes whole apartments or houses — for a fee, and users are able to explore new cities with the perks of being embedded in the neighborhoods they're exploring.
But if you're Black, chances are your experiences aren't so pleasant and you may face outright discrimination.
At least that's what researchers at Harvard Business School (HBS) found in a recent study. Benjamin G. Edelman and Michael Lucas, business administration professors at HBS, studied how AirBNB operates in New York City. On a random day in July 2012, they looked at the race of the person renting the space, how much a renter paid per room or sublet, and the host's average rating.
The more guests you book, or the higher your rating, the more leeway you have to raise your rate.
Their results were dumbfounding: Black hosts receive 12% less for their rentals than white hosts. Additionally, potential guests with "African-American sounding names" were 16% less likely to be accepted for the rental than those with "white-sounding names." They didn't focus on any other race.
Michael Lucas told National Public Radio (NPR) that this blatant discrimination often stems from unconscious bias, or making snap judgments based on your own background and conditioning, according to the University of Warwick.
Since the host's photo and name are the first things AirBNB users see, unconscious bias is causing intense discrimination on the site, according to Lucas.
David King, AirBNB's director of diversity and belonging, told NPR that they're working to make the service more inclusive. In the meantime however, NPR hosted a Twitter chat that uses the hashtag #AirBNBWhileBlack to expose the company's deplorable race problem.
Here are some of the most disturbing tweets: