California regulators announced Thursday that it is fining a housing host on Airbnb $5,000 for refusing to accept a guest because of her race.
Tami Barker, who owns a a cabin in Big Bear Lake, a city in the southern part of the state, reportedly told would-be guest Dyne Suh in a virtual message “I wouldn’t rent to u if u were the last person on earth.”
Her reasoning: “One word says it all. Asian.”
Barker apparently cancelled Suh’s reservation after the prospective guest had already traveled a long distance to reach the vacation destination.
Suh tearfully explained in a YouTube video what happened, alleging that Barker texted her the promise, “I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.”
In another message, the host also reportedly told Suh “It’s why we have Trump.”
The California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) said the monetary penalty was in agreement with the now-former Airbnb host. After Suh filed a complaint to Airbnb, the online lodging service conducted an investigation and permanently banned Barker from using the service ever again.
“We commend Ms. Suh, who was motivated to file a complaint by a desire to encourage other victims of discrimination to step forward and stand against injustice,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish in the official press release announcing the agreement. “We are also heartened by the Host’s willingness to embrace corrective measures that are forward-looking and restorative.”
While also issuing a personal apology to Suh and consenting to the fine, Barker agreed to a number of other stipulations in order to comply with anti-discrimination laws, including: attending a training, taking a college level course in Asian American studies, participating “in a community education panel,” volunteering at a civil rights organization, and reporting “rental data to DFEH for a period of four years.”
The DFEH and Airbnb collaborated earlier in the year to make it easier for users of the service to file complaints of racial discrimination with the government agency.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky lamented last year over his belief that his company inadvertently ignored racism on the platform for years.
“As a founder, I think we were late to this issue. We were so focused on an issue of trust and keeping people safe, responding to other people’s issues on trust and safety, that we took our eye off the ball,” Chesky said, according to Business Insider. “When we designed the platform, three white guys, there were a lot of things we didn’t think about. There are racists in the world and we need to have zero tolerance.”
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