A Nigerian graduate student shares her dreadful encounter with racism with an AirBnB provider. She also offers advice to those who use social media services like the accommodation provider and Uber.
If we’ve learned nothing from the past year’s presidential race, it’s that racism in America is still raging. Donald Trump has gained supporters and voters by making some of the most racist comments that a public figure has made in the last decade. He’s made it acceptable for people to express their hatred and ignorance. Despite these comments and the tragic rise of killing unarmed blacks, people are quick to make up excuses for why this isn’t considered racism. They are talking about ex-felons. They come from bad neighborhoods. Their socio-economic status is this or that which “allows us to reasonably infer” that they are dangerous.
Many of us, while recognizing that it’s a legitimate and serious problem, still view it as something that is removed from our individual worlds. Maybe we grew up in neighborhoods where people were accepting of racial and religious differences and realize that these types of comments and actions are ridiculous. Maybe we’ve never been exposed to actual racism, and have just read past and present stories about it. Maybe we go to work and don’t see any issues of racial discrimination. But this issue is VERY real and can hit any of us at any moment.
I attend Kellogg School of Management – Northwestern University. I’m surrounded by many intelligent and accomplished people of all backgrounds; truly some of the brightest minds in the country. Future CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that these issues can actually affect our little bubble. But they do and they recently did to a friend of mine. Jane Doe* is a 28 year old student originally from Africa and plans on going into finance after Kellogg.
While searching AirBnB for a short stay in Charlotte, she experienced the new found confidence that ignorant racists have. The full conversation with a Charlotte man, Todd Warner, is below.
I talked with Jane* to get her thoughts on the situation.
Prior to the incident, what were your views or experiences with racism in the United States? I honestly never really encountered anything personal that stuck out to me as such. I hear and read about it, and most certainly know it exists. But never in my wild dreams would I expect this, certainly not in 2016
What was your first reaction when you read Todd Warner’s comments to you on AirBnB? I thought it was a joke at first, a sick one at that. So I had to read through it a couple of times. Then I just cried. I guess I was overwhelmed with the thought of what could have happened if I moved in without him finding out I was black? Would he have assaulted me physically or verbally etc? I just didn’t feel safe anymore.
What concerns do you now have about moving to Charlotte and living in the United States?For the first time in my life, I’m conscious about my skin and race and the implications these have on my safety and well being. I’ve heard wonderful things about Charlotte and really hope my experience there reverses my feelings about this incident. It’s hard to not walk around with a little bit of fear this summer in Charlotte, and honestly I’m more than eager to finally relocate back home to Nigeria.
What do you hope AirBnB and other companies will do and learn from this situation? Screen more! Screen the hosts, screen the language that passes through the platform. Screen screen screen. The repercussions of the actions of such ill minded individuals is a huge detriment to these companies. They need to play their role not just in business but also in society and help protect users of their platform. Today it’s a “minor” case of racism, tomorrow it could be a serious case of pre-mediated murder or assault!
This may not be something we experience every day, but it is something that happens every day. There is no magic cure. There is no way to wake up tomorrow and things like this no longer happen. But the first step, which this post hopes to accomplish, is to show people that this is a problem for everyone. No matter how or where you grew up, where you go to school, where you work, which friends you associate with, we are all vulnerable to be exposed to comments like this. We need to talk about it, share it, fight it in our own communities. Then, maybe, our children will be shielded from these types of situations.
Please share this story with any and every one: AirBnB, local and national outlets, or Todd Warner himself. Enjoy his phone number.
UPDATE: Thank you AirBnB! They were quick to respond. They have removed the host from their site, refunded Jane* the money she paid to AirBnB, and offered to pay for her other lodging. We appreciate their quick action. Additionally, we have learned that the real estate company of the host in no way supports or condones this action, and will be taking efforts to remove Todd Warner from their property.