They don’t want black folks to pick up their hustles I guess… or stay in their homes… MESSAGE!!
Following growing sentiment suggesting racial discrimination on home rental platform Airbnb, one Black man has taken the conversation into the legal arena. Bossip reports that 25-year-old Gregory Seldon has hit the company with a proposed class action in Washington D.C. federal court. The suit alleges that the company has routinely violated the Fair Housing Act and the civil rights of people of color.
According to Seldon, he was denied accommodation in Philadelphia in March of 2015 because of his race. He was looking to save money on housing on a weekend getaway with friends by using Airbnb. At the time, his profile was linked to his Facebook, so his education, profile picture, race, and age were visible. After an Airbnb host rejected his application, Seldon reapplied using profiles imitating white men, using the names “Jessie” and “Todd.”
The false profiles were accepted, and Seldon said that rather than being helpful, the company “shamed him for speaking out” when he complained about the discrimination. The host agent did not believe his claims, instead telling him that “people like [him] were simply victimizing [himself],” according to court documents. Seldon is seeking unspecified damages and injunctive relief as part of the class action.
There is certainly ground to Seldon’s claims. Approximately a month ago, it was shown in a Harvard Business School study that not only were those with African-American sounding names 16% less likely to be accepted than white-sounding names on Airbnb, but Black renters made less money from their properties, and many white hosts were willing to lose out on money rather than rent to Black people.
Airbnb’s head of diversity and belonging, David King, addressed the study results in a statement: “We recognize that bias and discrimination present significant challenges, and we are taking steps to address them. Profile photos are an important part of our community and are one of the many tools that help hosts and guests connect with one another. We welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community.”
When questioned by Mashable, Airbnb director of public affairs Nick Papas responded with a similar statement. “While we do not comment on pending litigation, we strongly believe that racial discrimination is unacceptable and it flies in the face of our mission to bring people together…We are taking aggressive action to fight discrimination and eliminate unconscious bias in our community, said Papas.”