Airbnb, an online hospitality service, made waves after one of its hosts canceled a reservation based on the race of a prospective guest. The host in question has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and attend an Asian-American studies course at a nearby university following the public backlash.
Dyne Suh had booked a house near Big Bear, California, for the purpose of a ski trip with her fiancé and friends in February, but was later turned away by her host mere minutes away from the home.
When the prospective guest contacted her host, Tami Barker, using Airbnb’s messaging service, the host canceled the reservation, citing Suh’s race. “One word says it all. Asian.” one of the messages said.
“One word says it all. Asian,” one of the messages said.
Suh had originally reached an agreement with Barker to rent out her home for $250 per night and later confirmed with the host that it was acceptable to bring two additional guests with her. She found herself left out in the cold as she neared her destination, however, and soon received a slew of racist messages.
An Airbnb spokesperson called Barker’s statements “abhorrent and unacceptable.” The company has since permanently banned Barker from acting as a host again in the future.
The renter near Big Bear, California, texted Suh as she was close to arriving: “I wouldn’t rent to u if u were the last person on earth,” according to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
After being confronted with screenshots which showed Barker had agreed to allow Suh’s additional guest, she fired off another message: “You are insanely high,” part of the exchange read.
When Suh replied that she would report Barker to Airbnb for her racist behavior, the host fired back with another incendiary message.
“It’s why we have Trump…I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners,” Barker messaged.
Suh posted pictures of the exchange on Facebook shortly after being turned away. In an emotional video posted to YouTube, Suh detailed the conversation and the flash flood warnings she had faced in the area that day.
Barker has agreed to volunteer at a local civil rights organization and participate in a community education panel as part of her repentance. She will also report rental data to the department for the next four years and has promised to comply with anti-discrimination laws in the future.
Kevin Kish, the department’s director, issued a statement regarding the incident, describing the punitive measures taken as “forward-looking and restorative.”
“The real story is how a charged and painful encounter led to an opportunity for reconciliation between the people involved, and to an opportunity for them to enhance the public’s understand of discrimination and civil rights in California,” Kish said.
“Taking a terrible incident and then turning it into a good thing, an education opportunity, is a much better remedy than just paying a fine,” Suh later said.
Barker was “regretful for her impetuous actions and comments,” said Edward Lee, her attorney.
[Featured Image By Jeff Chiu/AP Images]