The Airbnb host of a Big Bear, California mountain cabin has been ordered to pay $5,000 and take a course in Asian-American studies after canceling a guest’s reservation using a racist comment.
Tami Barker canceled the reservation of guest Dyne Suh, 26, in February at the last minute using a series of text messages: “I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth…One word says it all. Asian,” The Guardian reports.
When shown screenshots of their previous agreement and then told her racist remark would be reported, Barker then allegedly responded, “It’s why we have Trump … and I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.”
The penalty levied after this incident marks the first time this has occurred under a legal agreement between the California department of fair employment and housing (DFEH) and the San Francisco-based residence rental app. The landmark agreement from April allows the government regulator to test and penalize Airbnb hosts for racial discrimination tactics.
Barker is reportedly being told to pay monetary damages under the “fair housing testing” agreement between the state of California and Airbnb. Although Barker was banned from the platform following a brief Airbnb investigation, she must agree to future compliance with anti-discrimination laws, take a college-level course in Asian-American studies, issue a personal apology to Suh and participate in civil rights community education panels.
Suh, her fiancé and two friends had driven four hours and were just minutes away from the home when she claims Barker denied ever agreeing to extra guests and canceled the reservation. When Suh complained to Barker, that’s when she sent the “Trump” comments.
A separate DFEH investigation and mediation between the two parties’ lawyers created the first-of-its-kind penalty for Barker.
“We were thinking pretty creatively with this agreement,” Kevin Kish, director of DFEH, told The Guardian. “The law tends to be backwards-looking, focusing on compensating people for harm. We’re interested in remedies that repair harm and transform relationships.”
“We want there to be strong anti-discrimination protections and preventions of harm, but we recognize that the world isn’t divided into good guys and bad guys. Humans have biases and we also need to recognize that humans change,” he added.
Airbnb allowed DFEH to regulate the apartment-renting, “sharing economy” app after a 10-month investigation that uncovering regular reports on hosts regularly refusing to rent to guests on a race-based basis. The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack even emerged during this period in 2016. Previously, Airbnb, Instacart and Uber had all pushed back on industry regulations because a “platform” was separate to other businesses that are subject to local laws.
In a video that Suh appears in from just after the incident, she can be seen making an emotional appeal to the country and invoking the country’s divided politics as a backdrop for the event.
“I just feel so hurt. People thought: ‘Oh, with the election of President Obama racism is over in this country.’ No, it’s very much alive, it exists and it could happen to anyone.”
“It stings that after living in the US for over 23 years this is what happens. No matter if I follow the law ... no matter how well I treat others, it doesn’t matter. If you’re Asian, you’re less than human and people can treat you like trash.”